LEICESTER, United Kingdom — Cardinal Vincent Nichols of Westminster, the President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has called for prayers for peace in the Middle East, especially for the people of Gaza.
Writing on Wednesday, the English cardinal said Gazans are “living through traumatic times of remembrance and protest at the dramatically deteriorating humanitarian situation. This is a people who are both extremely vulnerable and deprived. Their fate is central to peace and peace can never be built on neglect.”
At least 57 were killed by Israeli forces along the Gaza border as Palestinians protested the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Another child’s death was attributed to exposure to tear gas. Thousands of other people were injured.
The international community has refused to recognize Israel’s claim to East Jerusalem, which it annexed after the 6-Day War in 1967, and the Palestinians wish to make East Jerusalem their capital.
Until the Trump administration moved the U.S. embassy, all embassies to Israel have been located in Tel Aviv, the country’s commercial capital.
There are only about 1,500 Christians in Gaza, and only around 200 of these are Catholic.
Nichols has in the past visited the only Catholic parish in Gaza, which serves the small community in the majority Muslim area.
Today I spoke with Fr Mario da Silva PP in #Gaza to offer prayers & support. He said that everyone is desperate w/ shortages of water & other basic necessities. He said that knowing Catholics in England & Wales & across the world were praying for them was a great encouragement.
— Cardinal Nichols (@CardinalNichols) May 16, 2018
The cardinal also said on Wednesday he had a phone conversation with Father Mario da Silva, the Catholic parish priest in Gaza, to offer his prayers and support.
“He told me that life is so hard and everyone is desperate with shortages of water and other basic necessities. He said knowing that Catholics in England and Wales and across the world remembered the people of Gaza and were praying for them was a great encouragement,” Nichols said.
The cardinal’s appeal comes a day after Bishop Declan Lang, chair of the Holy Land Coordination and Bishop Christopher Chessun, Bishop of Southwark, issued a statement condemning the actions of the Israeli military against the people of Gaza.
The Holy Land Coordination brings together bishops from Europe, North America, and Southern Africa to visit Christians in Israel and Palestine in a show of solidarity.
“The terrible loss of life in Gaza caused by the Israeli army’s use of live fire against civilians is to be condemned unequivocally,” the bishops’ statement said.
“These protests take place against the drastically deteriorating humanitarian situation which leaves little hope and continues to undermine a peaceful resolution. Hundreds of families across Gaza are now mourning their loved ones, dead and wounded,” the English bishops continued.
The statement acknowledged Israel’s right to defend itself, but also said the country has the moral and legal responsibility not to use disproportionate force and not to prevent the injured from receiving medical treatment.
“All violence is destructive to peace efforts and our cry is for a peaceful two state solution with Jerusalem as the shared capital,” Lang and Chessun said. “We pray for all those who suffer from this conflict and for the peace of Jerusalem.”
At his general audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis said he was “very concerned about the escalation of tensions” in the Holy Land and in the Middle East, and said he was worried violence would move Palestinians and Israelis “away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations.”
After expressing his sorrow for the dead and the wounded and his closeness to all those who suffer, the pope insisted that “it’s never the use of violence that leads to peace. War begets war, violence begets violence.”