WASHINGTON—The U.S. bishops’ conference offered prayers for peace in the Holy Land on Thursday, as conflict between Israel and Hamas flared up this week.
“We are greatly saddened that simmering tensions erupted into violence in the Holy Land this week,” stated Bishop David Malloy of Rockford, chair of the U.S. bishops’ international justice and peace committee, on Thursday.
“It is a cycle we have unfortunately witnessed and spoken out against many times, but because of our great love in Christ Jesus, we remain ever present and close to the people of this land until the Peace of God reigns in its fullness forever,” Bishop Malloy stated.
According to Reuters, 83 have died in Gaza this week as a result of conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza. Hamas has fired rockets at Jerusalem and other cities in Israel, while the Israeli military has conducted airstrikes on Gaza, including on residential buildings.
Incidents of mob violence have occurred between Jews and Arabs in other Israeli cities. In the city of Lod, southeast of Tel Aviv, the city’s mayor has warned of a “civil war” breaking out and a “Kristallnacht” campaign conducted against Israeli civilians. He has asked for the Israeli military to intervene.
On Friday, May 7 — the last Friday of Ramadan — thousands of Palestinian Muslims clashed with police at al-Aqsa mosque on the Temple Mount. More than 150 Palestinians and six Israeli police officers were injured, according to the BBC. On May 10, Hamas began firing rockets into Jerusalem.
The Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem stated on May 10 that “peace requires justice. Insofar as the rights of everyone, Israelis and Palestinians, are not upheld and respected, there will be no justice and therefore no peace in the city.”
Palestinians had been denied access to Al-Aqsa Mosque during the month of Ramadan, the Patriarchate said. “These demonstrations of strength wound the spirit and soul of the Holy City, whose vocation is to be open and welcoming; to be a home for all believers, with equal rights and dignity and duties,” the Patriarchate said.
Patriarch Pierbattista Pizzaballa added that “the violence used against the worshippers undermines their safety and their rights to have access to the Holy Places and worship freely.”
Pope Francis mentioned the conflict on the Temple Mount in his Sunday Regina Coeli prayer on May 9.
“With particular concern I am following the events that are happening in Jerusalem. I pray that it may be a place of encounter and not of violent clashes, a place of prayer and peace,” the pope said.
“I invite everyone to seek shared solutions so that the multireligious and multicultural identity of the Holy City is respected and brotherhood prevails. Violence begets violence. Enough with the clashes,” he said.
Bishop Malloy on Thursday also called on all parties in the conflict to stop the violence.
“We call on all parties to cease the violence,” Bishop Malloy stated. “The maiming and killing of one’s neighbor only serves to demonize one’s adversary and deepen passions that divide and destroy.”
The USCCB, he continued, has called for the “upholding the status quo of the Holy Places, including the Al-Aqsa Compound, the site of much of this week’s violence.” The bishop also appealed to international law “in settling these disputes.”