A top Catholic leader in Jerusalem is willing to put his own life on the line to save Israeli children being held hostage by Hamas, according to multiple news reports.

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, told journalists Monday that he would take part in an exchange for child hostages after specifically being asked if he would.

“I am ready for an exchange, anything, if this can lead to freedom, to bring the children home. No problem. There is total willingness on my part,” he said, according to Reuters.

Law enforcement agencies will offer additional protection to Jewish and Muslim groups Friday
Why a Catholic nun sued the Louisiana Board of Pardons

Cardinal Pizzaballa added that a release of hostages would be a key step toward de-escalating the Israel-Hamas war.

“The first thing to do is to try to win the release of the hostages, otherwise there will be no way of stopping (an escalation). We are willing to help, even me personally,” he said, per Reuters.

Since fighting broke out on Saturday, Oct. 7, more than 1,400 people in Israel have died, as well as around 2,800 in Gaza, according to The Associated Press.

The Israeli military says that Hamas is currently holding at least 199 Israelis hostage. About a dozen of the hostages are thought to be children, Reuters reported.

Before Cardinal Pizzaballa’s remarks on Monday, Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin had already spoken about the Vatican’s willingness to help the hostages and help broker a peace agreement between Israel and Hamas, according to Catholic News Agency.

“The Holy See is ready for any necessary mediation, as always,” Cardinal Parolin said.

Cardinal Pizzaballa has called for a day of prayer and fasting on Tuesday in pursuit of peace.

“This is the way we all come together despite everything, and unite collectively in prayer, to deliver to God the Father our thirst for peace, justice, and reconciliation,” he said to explain the need for a day of prayer.

As Catholics and others in the region pray for peace, religious organizations and other nonprofits are working to provide food, water and other forms of help to people in Gaza who are in need of supplies or who are working to leave amid Israel’s counterattack on Hamas.

“Hospitals are expected to run out of generator fuel in the next 24 hours, meaning life-saving equipment like incubators and ventilators will stop functioning,” The Associated Press reported Monday.

Israeli leaders have instructed civilians in Gaza to leave the area for their own safety.

“Israel has urged exhausted Gazans to evacuate to the south, which hundreds of thousands have already done in the enclave that is home to more than 2 million people,” according to The Jerusalem Post.