Cardinal Vincent Nichols joined Pope Francis’ call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas on Monday.
“I echo Pope Francis’ appeal for a ceasefire, as a hope not to be abandoned, as an end to all violence in Israel and Palestine,” he said, urging Catholics in England and Wales “to sustain their prayers for peace” after the day of prayer and fasting on 27 October.
He continued: “The horrific atrocities committed by Hamas in Israel warrant every condemnation and we continue to hold in our prayers those who were killed, the injured, those held hostage, their families and communities.”
Alongside them, “the situation facing the millions of civilians in Gaza also calls for effective humanitarian relief and we pray too for those killed, injured and displaced there.”
Cardinal Nichols also expressed concern at the rise in antisemitic and Islamophobic hate crime, particularly in London. “At home I appeal for restraint and the total avoidance of hateful language and action, as the impact of this conflict is felt in communities here,” he said.
Archbishop William Nolan of Glasgow was among the signatories of a joint statement on 27 October by over 20 Church leaders and organisations in the UK, which called for “a ceasefire without conditions”.
The statement, convened by Christian Aid, urged “all governments with influence to bring an immediate end to the violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.” It condemned the Hamas terror attack on 7 October and the “Israeli military response in Gaza has added enormously to the toll of civilian suffering”.
Signatories called for “unfettered and immediate humanitarian access, as urged by the UN”, and “a commitment to work ceaselessly from now on to address the root causes of the violence? which must include an end to the occupation.”
Other signatories included Christine Allen, director of Cafod, Tim Livesey, chief executive of Embrace the Middle East and Fr John Boles, director of the Columban Missionaries in Britain, besides representatives of Pax Christi and the Justice and Peace networks.
Christians marked the international day of prayer for peace on 27 across the UK. Iona Abbey held an ecumenical worship, while Pax Christi members joining a candlelight prayer vigil in Coventry Cathedral which heard peace prayers from different faith traditions.
Christians from various churches gathered in the Market Place of Sidmouth in Devon to pray for peace in the Middle East. Naomi Hogg, pastoral assistant from the town’s Catholic Church of The Most Precious Blood, gave out Cafod prayer cards. “Even in a small seaside town in Devon we are all deeply affected by the current situation, not in any way taking sides but as Pope Francis has stressed we are praying for a ceasefire and for peace,” she said.
The Association of Leaders of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland also called for an immediate and a humanitarian corridor for critical aid and supplies.
“After many decades of violence and unnecessary bloodshed in the region, it is time to seek a renewed path towards lasting peace,” said a statement from the association.
Scotland’s Catholic bishops sent a message of support to the first minister Humza Yousaf, promising to pray for the safety of his family in Gaza.
There was a Christian presence at the pro-Palestinian march for peace on 28 October, with the banner “Pray For Peace & Act For Justice – Christians Stand With Gaza”. There were also marches in Manchester, Glasgow, Belfast and other cities.
The same day the Joint Public Issues Team of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, the Methodist Church and the United Reformed Church, wrote online: “Today we give thanks for those working for peace and reconciliation in Palestine and Israel. God of Peace, thank you for the commitment, hope and work of peace builders in this time of violence.”