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ROME – Pope Francis will meet on Thursday with family members of slain Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, whose death earlier this year while working sparked global outcry, and who will be commemorated during a special Mass in Rome.
According to the Palestinian Embassy to the Holy See, the Greek Melchite Patriarch of Antioch, Youssef Absi, and the High Presidential Commission for Church Affairs in Palestine have organized a commemorative Mass for Abu Akleh that will take place on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Basilica of Saint Mary in Cosmedin in Rome.
Abu Akleh’s brother and his family will attend the Mass and will meet with Pope Francis privately earlier that morning.
In addition to Abu Akleh’s family, the Mass will be attended by various Vatican representatives and ambassadors to the Holy See, as well as Arab ambassadors to Italy.
Abu Akleh, a renowned Palestinian-American journalist with Arabic-language news site Al Jazeera for 25 years, was killed May 11 while covering a raid by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on the Jenin Refugee camp in the West Bank.
Hailed as one of the most prominent names across the Middle East for her decades of reporting, specifically in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories, Abu Akleh was wearing a blue vest with the word “PRESS” written on it at the time she was fatally shot and killed.
Given the circumstances of her death, some, including members of Abu Akleh’s family, have accused the IDF of intentionally targeting her and other members of the press corps.
In the wake of the incident, Israeli authorities initially claimed Abu Akleh was killed by Palestinian gunmen during the fighting, however, witness accounts, including from colleagues at the scene, testified that no fighting was happening in the area at the time.
Amid a wave of international backlash and heavy scrutiny, Israel later admitted that Abu Akleh was most likely killed by an Israeli soldier, but that the killing was a mistake.
Abu Akleh’s niece, Lina, has vocally disputed this in public, accusing Israel of targeting her aunt.
In the months since her aunt’s death, Lina has become the face of her family’s campaign for accountability and justice. She was recently named among Time Magazine’s 100 emerging leaders for “publicly demanding scrutiny of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians,” and she has also met with top U.S. officials and lawmakers, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.