Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer, penance and fasting for peace throughout the world on Friday, October 27th. Let us together and in our own individual ways, heed this call.
Without a doubt the events of the past two weeks in the Holy Land, beginning, but not ending with the abhorrent terrorist attack of Hamas that resulted in many innocent deaths and the taking of many hostages predicated the Holy Father’s call. In addition, all regions of the world, to different degrees, are experiencing war, violence, persecution, and abject poverty that cause destruction, death, and humanitarian suffering. Ukraine, Sudan, Haiti, Myanmar, Venezuela are but a few of these.
The Holy Father said directly: “Israel has a legitimate right to its self-defense.” He also forcefully reminded us that war is always a failure — resulting in unspeakable violence and destruction of human life. He called for all efforts to mitigate, not exacerbate, the massive humanitarian crisis this war is already creating — among both Israeli and Palestinian people.
Our Catholic perspective is clear: the legitimate right of a nation to defend itself is accompanied by the responsibility to use proportionate means, and to make every effort to avoid death and suffering to innocent civilians, even when the nature of the war and the foe makes that most challenging.
Let us pray and work for the end to the immediate devastation of war and the resultant humanitarian crisis.
Allow me to share reports I personally heard in the past week:
I met in-person in New York four individuals who directly witnessed and survived Hamas’ October 7th terrorist attack on kibbutzim in southern Israel. One woman told of hiding with her son for hours in their safe room as terrorists surrounded the house. She could hear the killing outside. Another told of neighbors being kidnapped — a mother and her three children. Just as they approached the border, the mother with two children escaped, but not the third child. The mother watched her child being taken hostage into Gaza.
A few days before, I heard from a colleague who works for a Catholic humanitarian organization in the Holy Land. The organization’s director in Gaza was working on ecumenical relief efforts at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral that was struck earlier in the day by an Israeli airstrike that caused destruction and deaths. The director was sifting through the rubble and uncovered the dead bodies of his parents and his infant niece.
Let us pray and work for the end to the immediate devastation of war and the resultant humanitarian crisis. As urgent as this is, it is not enough. Our prayer and our work must be toward a lasting peace rooted in justice for all Israeli and Palestinian people.
Pope Francis’ predecessor Paul VI rightly advised: “If you want peace, work for justice.” For both, let us pray and work.