United States

U.S. dioceses join call for prayer for Middle East peace on Oct. 17

Dozens of bishops in the United States are joining this October 17 the call made by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, to pray and fast for peace in the Middle East.

Gonzalo Meza-October 17, 2023-Reading time: 3 minutes

Pilgrims from the Diocese of Arlington pray in Jerusalem on October 10, 2023 (OSV News photo / Debbie Hill).

Days after Hamas attacked Israel causing thousands of deaths and injuries, the Latin Patriarch said in a letter: "Suddenly we were catapulted into an unprecedented sea of violence. The hatred, which unfortunately we have already experienced for a long time, will increase even more, and the spiral of violence that follows will create more destruction." In the face of this, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista PizzaballaHe called for a day of prayer, fasting and abstinence on October 17. 

In response, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) accepted the invitation and posted on his X account: "We join Cardinal Pizzaballa and all the ordinaries of the Holy Land in calling for a day of fasting, abstinence and prayer on October 17. Thus, dozens of bishops in the United States have urged parishioners in their jurisdictions to join in this initiative. Some of the dioceses that will organize various prayer meetings, Masses, or Rosaries at the local and diocesan levels are: Denver, Colorado; Austin, Texas; Arlington, Virginia; Trenton, New Jersey; New Orleans, Louisiana; Los Angeles, California, among others. 

The prelates also invited people to send donations to the U.S. relief agency, Catholic Relief Services (CRS), to meet humanitarian needs in the area. On October 14, the agency issued a press release warning of the humanitarian catastrophe in the Gaza Strip caused by Israel's relentless bombardment, the government's order for the displacement of thousands of Palestinians to the south of the area and the cutting off of essential supplies: "Most emergency shelters and hospitals cannot cope and water and sanitation services are overwhelmed. Catholic Relief Services is calling for the strip to be opened for immediate humanitarian aid before the humanitarian situation becomes a catastrophe. Gaza's civilians are entitled to safety and protection, both in the north and south. We also urge international stakeholders to work towards a ceasefire and an end to the violence." CRS has been present in the Holy Land since 1961. Its initial work was food distribution and vaccination programs. In recent years it has focused on developing economic and social opportunities as well as promoting peace. Until before 2014 it even had an office in the Gaza Strip, however, due to increased violence it had to close.

Some of the messages that the prelates issued inviting parishioners to join the day of prayer for peace on October 17 were the following:

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila, Archbishop of Denver: "Violence is not a religious act and does not come from God. While Hamas hides behind its atrocities, innocent children, men and women are dying. This act of evil affects every part of their land and touches their people, including the Christian community in Israel and Palestine."

Bishop Joe. S. Vasquez, Bishop of Austin: "I ask your prayers for the end of this war. May Our Lady of the Holy Rosary intercede for the people in the Holy Land and give them comfort and strength during this time of uncertainty and great pain".

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington: "I invite all the faithful of the Diocese of Arlington to participate in this sacrificial offering to God with the intention of ending the violence and hatred in this crisis. May the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, transform hearts, put an end to war, violence and suffering, and give his peace to the world".

Bishop David. M. O'Connell, Bishop of Trenton: "We ask that this Tuesday, October 17, all observe a day of fasting, abstinence and prayer. Let us organize times of prayer with Eucharistic Adoration and the recitation of the Rosary. In this way we will all be united - in spite of everything - and we will gather collectively in prayer to give to God our thirst for peace, justice and reconciliation".

Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond, Archbishop of New Orleans: "I ask all Catholics and people of faith to join in this day of fasting and prayer for the fighting to stop, the hostages to be released and peace to be restored. As we join with so many people of faith to pray for an end to war, we also continue to pray for an end to violence, crime and racism in our own communities."

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