08 November 2023, The Tablet

Francis: pursue ‘every avenue’ for peace in Holy Land

Fr Francesco Patton, the Custos of the Holy Land, said he hoped the Pope’s appeal will “touch the consciences” of world leaders.

Francis: pursue ‘every avenue’ for peace in Holy Land

Pope Francis offered prayers for peace at St Peter’s on 27 October.
ZUMA Press Inc / Alamy

Pope Francis renewed his appeal for a ceasefire in the Holy Land during the Sunday Angelus, praying that “every possible avenue is pursued to avoid absolutely an escalation of the conflict, to provide assistance to the wounded, and to deliver aid to the population of Gaza”.

He called for the release of the over 200 Israeli hostages who were taken during the Hamas terror attack on 7 October.  Later in the day he spoke by telephone to Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, who expressed his appreciation for the Pope’s support for a ceasefire.

The Holy See’s permanent observer to the United Nations, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, called on Monday for “the absolute protection of each and every civilian” and demanded that “everything possible be done to avoid a humanitarian disaster”.

“Although the path of dialogue seems very narrow at present, it is the only viable option for a lasting end to the cycle of violence that has engulfed this land, so dear to Christians, Jews, and Muslims,” he said.

On 2 November, Francis spoke to the Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who urged the Vatican to persist in its peace-keeping efforts.

Fr Francesco Patton, the Custos of the Holy Land, said he hoped the Pope’s appeal will “touch the consciences” of world leaders.

“The Pope's words first made me think about yesterday's event here in Jerusalem,” he said, “where children were praying for peace.”

He was referring to a gathering of Israelis and Palestinians who prayed together on Saturday morning at the Terra Sancta School in Jerusalem. He reported that in Gaza around 700 people are still sheltering in the Holy Family Catholic Parish.

They were hearing “loud explosions that hit nearby”, he said, adding that one blast “even hit in the premises of the school run by the nuns”.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry says more than 10,000 people have been killed in the territory since the war began a month ago. Fr Patton also lamented that more and more Palestinian Christians are considering leaving which “means seeing the Christian presence in the Middle East diminish”.

The Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Jerusalem condemned “the bombing by the Israeli army” of its cultural centre in Gaza on 31 October, which sheltered 500 people. No one was killed, but blankets, food supplies and gas cylinders, were buried in the rubble.

The patriarchate accused Israel of an “unjustified determination to destroy civilian infrastructure and social service centres, as well as shelters for civilians trapped in the besieged enclave.”

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, has appealed for financial support for his diocese as it aids people in Gaza and others suffering the consequences of the war in the Holy Land.

“Charity and prayer animate the entire extended family of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, especially during times of extreme hardship,” he said, noting that the war is causing economic and other hardships for many families in the occupied West Bank, where three million Palestinians live.

In an interview last week with CNA, he said the Church needed to maintain a distinct perspective in the violence.

“We do not pray for those who are right or wrong. We pray for those who are at war,” he said. “My prayer is that everyone maintains their consciousness of their dignity and the dignity of every human being.”

There were reports from the Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Palestine and Israel (EAPPI) of escalating violence in the West Bank, with nearly 1,000 Palestinians from at least 15 different communities forced to leave their homes since 7 October and 128 killed by Israeli forces or settlers.

EAPPI drafted an urgent letter urging UK MPs to fulfil their obligations under international law and use the UK’s diplomatic position to pressure all parties to protect civilians, end the escalating violence, and stop the forced displacement of Palestinians.

  Loading ...
Get Instant Access
Subscribe to The Tablet for just £7.99

Subscribe today to take advantage of our introductory offers and enjoy 30 days' access for just £7.99