Catholic patriarch calls day of prayer and fasting for peace in the Holy Land
ROME — The Latin Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem has called for a day of prayer and fasting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land.
Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa has urged Catholics to organize times of prayer with Eucharistic adoration and recitation of the rosary “to deliver to God the Father our thirst for peace, justice and reconciliation.”
“In this time of sorrow and dismay, we do not want to remain helpless. We cannot let death and its sting (1 Cor 15:55) be the only word we hear,” he said in a statement issued Oct. 11.
“That is why we feel the need to pray, to turn our hearts to God the Father. Only in this way we can draw the strength and serenity needed to endure these hard times, by turning to him, in prayer and intercession, to implore and cry out to God amidst this anguish.”
Pizzaballa, who serves as the head of Latin Catholics living in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus, acknowledged that the war may inhibit many Catholics in the Holy Land from organizing large gatherings and encouraged “simple and sober common moments of prayer in parishes, religious communities and families.”
In response, Catholics from around the world have also pledged on social media to join in the fast for peace in the Holy Land in solidarity, which falls on the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the first-century bishop and martyr from Syria.
After Hamas’ unprecedented multi-front attack on Israel killed 1,200 people, the Israeli government vowed retaliation and launched airstrikes on the blockaded Gaza Strip, killing 900 people according to Gaza officials.
Some 130 Israeli hostages were taken by the militant Islamist group, who have threatened to kill one hostage every time that Israel’s military bombs civilian targets in Gaza without warning.
“The pain and dismay at what is happening is great. Once again we find ourselves in the midst of a political and military crisis. We have suddenly been catapulted into a sea of unprecedented violence,” Pizzaballa said.
“The hatred, which we have unfortunately already been experiencing for too long, will increase even more, and the ensuing spiral of violence will create more destruction. Everything seems to speak of death.”
The cardinal, who arrived back in Jerusalem on the night of Oct. 10 after being in Italy for the consistory, said that he returned to find “a country that has changed a great deal and very quickly.”
“I fear it will be a very long war,” Pizzaballa said in an interview with Vatican News on Oct. 11, noting the possibility of an Israeli ground operation in Gaza.
He said that Christians in Gaza have taken shelter in the Catholic parish and school grounds in the hope that these buildings will not be targeted.
“As long as the Palestinian issue, the freedom, dignity, and future of the Palestinians are not taken into account in the ways that are necessary today, prospects for peace between Israel and Palestine will be increasingly difficult,” the cardinal said.
“The international community must start looking again at the Middle East and the Israeli-Palestinian issue with more attention than it has shown so far. And it must work hard to calm the situation, to bring the parties to reasonableness through mediations that are not necessarily public, because public ones will never work,” he added.
“We need support, to condemn all forms of violence, to isolate the violent, and to work relentlessly for a cease-fire. Because as long as weapons speak, it will not be possible to hear other voices.”