ROME – As Israeli warplanes pound the northern Gaza strip and a major Israeli assault looms on Rafah on Gaza’s southern edge, Pope Francis has repeated his insistent calls for a cease fire, saying that “a negotiated peace is better than a war without end.”

Although the pontiff made the comment in response to a question as to whether he has a message for Vladimir Putin with regard to the war in Ukraine, he broadened his answer to apply to all countries at war, including Gaza.

The 87-year-old Pope Francis spoke Wednesday in an interview with Norah O’Donnell of CBS, his first extended interview with an American news anchor over the course of his 11-year papacy. Portions of the interview aired Wednesday night on the CBS Evening News, with a longer version scheduled for “60 Minutes” on May, followed by an hourlong prime time special on CBS May 20.

Then pope in Spanish during the hour-long interview, with his responses translated into English by an interpreter.

Earlier in the conversation, Francis was asked what he thinks about those who describe the violence in Gaza as a “genocide.” The pontiff simply repeated the term, then described how he calls the lone Catholic parish in Gaza every evening at around 7:00 p.m. Rome time for an update, adding that recently he’d heard that people are fighting over the limited food supplies that reach the area.

In late November, a dispute broke out after Pope Francis met with a group of Palestinians who later claimed he’d used the word “genocide” with regard to Gaza. A Vatican spokesman tried to deny those claims, but the Palestinians insisted they had heard Francis accurately.

The CBS interview was focused on the pope’s upcoming World Day for Children, set to take place in the Vatican May 25-26, which is being organized by Franciscan Father Enzo Fortunato, recently tapped by Francis as the first-ever spokesman for St. Peter’s Basilica.

The pontiff spoke about the negative consequences of war on children, referring in particular to Ukraine and repeating a point he’s made often in the past.

“Those kids don’t know how to smile,” the pope said. “I tell them something, but they forgot how to smile. And this is very hard when a child forgets to smile. That’s really very serious. Very serious.”

Francis largely brushed off concerns about his physical condition, saying, “My health is good,” and also took on climate change skeptics.

“There are people who are foolish, and foolish even if you show them research, they don’t believe it,” he said. “Why, because they don’t understand the situation, or because of their interest, but climate change exists.”

Asked about declining numbers for the Catholic Church in the United States, Francis responded with a version of his classic “room for everybody” response.

“I would say that there is always a place, always. If in this parish the priest doesn’t seem welcoming, I understand, but go and look elsewhere, there is always a place,” Francis said.

“Do not run away from the Church. The Church is very big. It’s more than a temple … you shouldn’t run away from her.”