Catholic leaders plead for peace amid war in Gaza


PRAYING FOR PEACE: Pope Francis places his hand on his face during his weekly general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Oct. 11, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

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SAN DIEGO — Catholic leaders from around the world pleaded for peace amid “the outbreak of ferocious violence in the Holy Land.”

“War does not solve any problems; it only sows death and destruction. It increases hatred, multiplies revenge. War erases the future,” Pope Francis said at the end of his general audience at St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 18.

“Our thoughts go to Palestine and Israel,” he said. “Casualties are rising and the situation in Gaza is desperate. Please, may everything possible be done to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.”

What is also disturbing, he continued, is the possibility the conflict will spread just as so many other battles of war are being waged in the world.

“Silence the weapons. Listen to the cry of the poor, the people, the children, for peace,” the pope said.

Cardinal Robert W. McElroy, from the Diocese of San Diego, issued a statement on Oct. 12 from Vatican City, where he was participating in the Synod on Synodality.

“The heinous attack upon Israel by Hamas shocks the conscience of the Catholic community of San Diego and Imperial counties and must be repudiated by all. We join in prayer with the people of Israel and our own Jewish community for the consolation of the victims and their families and the immediate release of the hostages.

“As war escalates in the Middle East, we pray also for the civilian population of Gaza, which is suffering immensely from the siege being levied upon them. A second humanitarian disaster will only compound the cycle of violence that is the scourge of our world.”

The cardinal asked the diocese’s faithful to pray for “peace to return to the region where Our Lord walked the earth and called upon us all to love one another.”

Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, chairman of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, also called for prayers.

“The world is once again shocked and horrified by the outbreak of ferocious violence in the Holy Land. Reports indicate large numbers of wounded and dead, including many civilians.

“May all who love the Holy Land seek to bring about among all the parties engaged in the fighting a cessation of violence, respect for civilian populations and the release of hostages,” he said. “We call on the faithful, and all people of good will, to continue to pray for peace in the land Our Lord, the Prince of Peace, called home.”

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