NEW YORK – Echoing the call of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, the U.S. Bishops are calling for a day of fasting, abstinence and prayer on Oct. 17 for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land amid a rapidly escalating war between Israel and Hamas.

“On behalf of all the Ordinaries of the Holy Land, I invite all parishes and religious communities to a day of fasting and prayer for peace and reconciliation,” Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, announced in an Oct. 11 statement.

“We ask that on Tuesday, Oct. 17, everyone hold a day of fasting, abstinence, and prayer,” Pizzaballa said. “Let us organize prayer times with Eucharistic adoration and with the recitation of the Rosary to Our Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The U.S. Bishops Conference reposted the statement Oct. 12, asking U.S. Catholics to participate.

Pizzaballa’s statement came five days after Hamas attacked Israel.

The death toll from the attack has since surpassed 1,300, with more than 3,000 people injured, according to the Israeli government. Retaliatory airstrikes by Israel on Gaza have killed more than 1,400 Palestinians and wounded more than 6,250, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry. There are also at least 150 hostages taken by Hamas during the offensive whose fate is uncertain, as Israel is expected to launch a ground offensive in the coming days.

Beyond the Middle East, tensions have risen with protests by people on both sides of the conflict, and a call by a former Hamas leader for a “Global Day of Jihad” on Oct. 13 prompted heightened security measures around the United States.

In his statement, Pizzaballa expressed concern that the conflict had only just begun.

“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,” he 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.”

Pizzaballa continued that it is important to turn towards God in these difficult times, as “only in this way we can draw the strength and serenity needed to endure these hard times.” He said that the day of fasting, abstinence, and prayer on Oct. 17 is one way everyone can come together for peace.

“This is the way we all come together despite everything, and unite collectively in prayer, to deliver to God the Father our thirst for peace, justice, and reconciliation,” Pizzaballa said.

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