Letter To US Bishops From Archbishop Kurtz Urging Solidarity With Pope And Action For Peace
July 22, 2014 usccb.org
Dear Brother Bishops,
May God bless you!
On Sunday, July 20, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, prayed for peace in all situations of tension and conflict in the world. He mentioned in particular the Middle East and Ukraine, singling out the terrible crisis of Christians in Iraq with these words: “Today our brothers are persecuted. They are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!”
Our own Conference of Bishops has called attention to numerous situations of violence that cry out for peace. There is the terrible conflict between Israel and Hamas that terrorizes Israeli civilians and has cost the lives of more than 500 Gazans, most of whom are civilians. There are the alarming conflicts in Syria and Iraq that have caused millions to flee their homes and tens of thousands to lose their lives. We are mindful of the violent conflict in Ukraine, of the thousands who are displaced, and the hundreds of innocent civilians whose lives were cut short when a passenger jet was shot down. In Africa there are the often forgotten clashes in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that have displaced millions. Closer to home, there is the violence in Central America that is driving unaccompanied children to seek refuge in our country.
All of these tragic situations, and sadly many more, demand our prayer and action for peace. On Sunday, Pope Francis pleaded: “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace!” Let us join our prayers and calls to action with his.
In the coming days and weeks I urge you to ask our Catholic people to pray for peace and to support diplomatic efforts aimed at dialogue and reconciliation. As Jesus admonishes us: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). This can be done in personal prayers and in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass.
We should never underestimate the power of prayer; for it touches and opens us to the power of God among us. My prayer is that together we might help open our world to God’s gift of peace, a peace that the world cannot give (cf. John 14:27).
Fraternally yours in our Lord,
Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
International Justice and Peace 3211 4th Street, NE Washington, DC 20017 Tel. (202) 541-3160 Fax (202) 541-3339
Catholic Relief Service 228 West Lexington Street Baltimore, MD 21201 Tel. (410) 625-2220 Fax (410) 685-1635
July 23, 2014
Pope Francis recently spoke about the terrible cycle of violence in the Holy Land. The Pope pleaded with political leaders “not to spare prayer or any effort to end every hostility and seek the desired peace for the good of all.” This Sunday, he reiterated: “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence.”
Despite this plea, the hostilities between Israel and Hamas have only intensified, bringing death and destruction, especially to the civilian population of Gaza. More than 500 Gazans have died; most of them young children, women and the vulnerable elderly. Israelis should not have to live in fear of Hamas’ indiscriminate rocket attacks on civilian areas. At the same time, Palestinians should not have to live in fear for their lives from air and ground attacks or to suffer the humiliations of the all too long occupation.
This latest bonfire of violence was ignited by the tragic kidnappings and murders of three Israeli youth. In response, it was followed by the arrests of hundreds of Palestinians and the searches of innumerable Palestinian homes in the West Bank. Several Palestinians died during the search. Then there was the consequent kidnapping and murder of a Palestinian youth who was burned alive. These tragic reactions should have reminded us that the status quo is unsustainable. It is a recipe for recurring violence.
Indeed, the Justice and Peace Commission of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries in the Holy Land has declared that all of these killings “are products of the injustice and of the hatred that the occupation fosters in the hearts of those prone to such deeds. These deaths are in no way justifiable and we mourn with those who mourn the waste of these young lives.” The status quo leads to deep desperation in Gaza and the West Bank, and to poverty where there should be economic opportunity. Furthermore, are excessive actions of hostility and indiscriminate punishment not breeding a whole new generation of terrorists?
Catholic Relief Services has had to suspend operations in Gaza due to the violence, but with U.S. support, is prepared to resume humanitarian and development assistance to Gaza’s vulnerable population when a ceasefire is achieved. Such assistance reduces desperation and is good for both Palestinians and Israelis alike.
We urge Congress to support an immediate ceasefire and humanitarian relief for Gaza. In addition, Congress should support the difficult, but essential, work of building a just and lasting peace. Only the establishment of a viable and independent Palestinian state in the near term living alongside a recognized and secure Israel will bring the peace for which majorities of both Israelis and Palestinians yearn.
Letter to Senate/House of Representatives
July 23, 2014
It is our hope and prayer that one day we might look back and find that this recent cycle of violence was the last—a cycle broken by a just and lasting peace agreement. Together with Pope Francis, let us agree “not to spare prayer or any effort to end every hostility and seek the desired peace for the good of all.” Let our refrain be that of Pope Francis: “Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.”
Most Reverend Richard E. Pates
Bishop of Des Moines President
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
Dr. Carolyn Y. Woo
Chair, Committee on International Justice and Peace Catholic Relief Services