Saying terrorism, war solve nothing, Pope prays for peace

A rocket is fired from Gaza toward Israel, in Gaza, Oct. 7, 2023. Hamas militants breached Israeli security along the Gaza border and sent a barrage of over 2,000 rockets that reached into Jerusalem and Tel Aviv areas, resulting in dozens dead and hundreds injured. (OSV News photo/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) – “War is a defeat,” Pope Francis insisted as he called for prayers for peace in Israel and Palestine.

Speaking to thousands of people gathered in St Peter’s Square on October 8 for the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the Pope said he is following events in Israel and Gaza “with apprehension and sorrow”.

A day earlier, militants in Gaza launched a massive attack on southern Israel, firing rockets and breaching the border.

“The violence has exploded even more ferociously, causing hundreds of deaths and casualties,” the Pope told people gathered for the midday Sunday prayer.

“I express my closeness to the families and victims,” Pope Francis said. “I am praying for them and for all who are living hours of terror and anguish.”

“May the attacks and weapons cease,” he said. “Please!”

“And let it be understood that terrorism and war do not lead to any resolutions, but only to the death and suffering of so many innocent people,” Pope Francis said. “War is a defeat! Let us pray that there be peace in Israel and in Palestine.”

During October, the month traditionally devoted to the rosary, the Pope asked Catholics to pray for Mary’s intercession “for the gift of peace in the many countries throughout the world marked by war and conflicts. And let us continue to remember the dear Ukraine, which suffers so much every day, which is so battered”.

Meanwhile, patriarchs and heads of the churches in Jerusalem united in a call for peace and justice amid the unfolding violence, following a surprise attack by Hamas in southern Israel, which has left around 600 Israelis dead, among them civilians and dozens of soldiers and police who were killed battling the Hamas fighters. Over 2000 people were injured.

Fears of a ground invasion of Gaza are growing after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened to turn the besieged Palestinian enclave into a “deserted island”, while the latest reported death toll of Palestinians is 313. Thousands of people in Palestinian territories are injured in Israeli airstrikes, which began hours following the Hamas attack.

“The Holy Land, a place sacred to countless millions around the world, is currently mired in violence and suffering due to the prolonged political conflict and the lamentable absence of justice and respect for human rights,” The Patriarchs and Head of the Churches in Jerusalem said in an October 7 joint statement.

As custodians of the Christian faith, the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches said they “stand in solidarity with the people of this region, who are enduring the devastating consequences of continued strife”.

“We unequivocally condemn any acts that target civilians, regardless of their nationality, ethnicity or faith,” said the Patriarchs, among them Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.

Cardinal Pizzaballa expressed “condemnation” and great concern in an October 7 interview with the Italian Catholic daily newspaper Avvenire.

“We need to stop the violence and then apply diplomatic pressure to prevent the game of retaliation from becoming a vicious cycle from which it is difficult to escape. So (we must) try to bring back a minimum of reasonableness between the parties. Even if it seems difficult right now,” said Pizzaballa, who became the first resident cardinal in Jerusalem’s history during a September 30 consistory in Rome.

The Latin Patriarchate announced the postponement of all ceremonies to honour the newly created cardinal due to the current situation. The patriarchate also called for all October 8 Masses to be offered for the intention of a ceasefire and an end to the “ongoing war in the Holy Land to prevent further bloodshed, shattering of lives and burial of hopes”.

“May all religious leaders work to calm the situation and calm down the spirits. In short, let no one throw fuel on the fire. And I hope for prayers for peace. And already today we will carry out an initiative in this sense in all our churches,” Cardinal Pizzaballa told Avvenire.

The attack took place on the Jewish holiday of Simchat Torah, which marks the completion of the annual cycle of reading the Torah scroll. The attack also fell a day after the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the 1973 War, which began with a surprise attack on Israel by a coalition of Arab states led by Egypt and Syria on Yom Kippur, Judaism’s holiest day of the year.

The attack follows a year of increasing violence from both settlers and the Israel Defence Forces after the election of Israel’s far-right nationalist government.

In the Italian newspaper interview, the reporter noted Cardinal Pizzaballa’s pain at the violence and concern that it would escalate because of the captive Israelis.

“The extension of the attack. And the fact that there are many Israelis kidnapped, civilians too. These are decidedly new elements, also taking into account the context of great mistrust that exists. Of course, I hope I’m wrong, but I fear that the situation will get even worse. There will be retaliation for retaliation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Israeli forces also exchanged fire with Hezbollah over the weekend as Lebanon’s militant group fired dozens of rockets and shells at Israeli positions in a disputed area along the country’s northern border.

In a TV broadcast, Israel’s Defence Minister Yoav Gallant vowed on October 7 that retaliation against Hamas would be swift and harsh.

The Patriarchs and Head of the Churches said that it is their “fervent hope and prayer” that all parties involved “will heed this call for an immediate cessation of violence”. They also called for dialogue “seeking lasting solutions that promote justice, peace, and reconciliation for the people of this land, who have endured the burdens of conflict for far too long”.

Photo: A rocket is fired from Gaza toward Israel, in Gaza, on October 7, 2023 (OSV News photo/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa, Reuters)

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Michael Otto

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  1. Dr.Cajetan Coelho says

    “Terrorism and deception are weapons not of the strong, but of the weak. I object to violence because, when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.” – Mahatma Gandhi

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