09 October 2023, The Tablet

Church leaders condemn outbreak of ‘war’ in Holy Land

by Hannah Brockhaus, CNA

A series of rocket attacks and incursions on Israel from Hamas militants killed hundreds on civilians and soldiers.

Church leaders condemn outbreak of ‘war’ in Holy Land

Israel launched airstrikes against Gaza on 7 October following mass rocket attacks and an assault by Hamas militants.
Zuma Press Inc / Alamy

Pope Francis and the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem called for peace after Israel declared “war” following a major attack by Hamas fighters over the weekend.

The Pope said at the end of a public address on Sunday he is following the violence “with apprehension and sorrow”, and issued an appeal to “please stop weapons attacks”.

The head of the Catholic Church in Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, called for a de-escalation of the situation in a statement on 7 October.

“The continuing bloodshed and declarations of war remind us once again of the urgent need to find a lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in this land,” he said.

A series of rocket attacks and incursions on Israel from Hamas militants killed hundreds on civilians and soldiers and wounded many more between Saturday and Sunday morning.

The surprise attacks began early on the morning of 7 October, the start of the observance of the Jewish holiday Simchat Torah.

Israel reacted to the attacks by fighting back in southern Israel and launching airstrikes in Gaza. Israeli military official Daniel Hagari told reporters on Sunday morning that “hundreds of terrorists” had been killed during fighting in Gaza and southern Israel.

On Saturday, the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the country is “at war”.

In an appeal at the end of his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis said “terrorism and war do not bring any solution, but only death and suffering for many innocent people. War is a failure. Every war is a failure.”

He said he is close to the families of the victims and called for prayers “that there will be peace in Israel and Palestine”.

The Pope also recalled that the month of October is dedicated to the rosary, and asked Catholics to continue to pray through the intercession of Mary “for the gift of peace for the many countries of the world marked by war and conflict”.

Pizzaballa, who was created a cardinal by Pope Francis in a consistory on 30 September, called the sudden outbreak of violence in Israel and Palestine “very concerning due to its extension and intensity”.

“The too many casualties and tragedies, which both Palestinians and Israeli families have to deal with, will create more hatred and division, and will destroy more and more any perspective of stability,” the patriarch added.

“We ask God to inspire world leaders in their intervention for the implementation of peace and concord,” he said, “so that Jerusalem may be a house of prayer for all peoples.”

The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem also announced that “due to the present circumstances,” celebrations in honor of Pizzaballa’s inclusion in the College of Cardinals have been canceled until further notice.

A joint statement from the patriarchs and heads of the Churches in Jerusalem also called for the protection of both Israelis and Palestinians.

“As custodians of the Christian faith, deeply rooted in the Holy Land, we stand in solidarity with the people of this region, who are enduring the devastating consequences of continued strife,” the statement said.

The Christian leaders in the Holy Land condemned “any acts that target civilians, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity, or faith” and called for all parties to immediately cease violence.

“Our faith, which is founded on the teachings of Jesus Christ, compels us to advocate for the cessation of all violent and military activities that bring harm to both Palestinian and Israeli civilians,” it said.

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