Pope Francis has strenuously called on the faithful, the parties concerned in the Gaza conflict and those in positions of authority around the world to pray for peace.
Addressing the faithful in St. Peter’s Square after reciting the Angelus prayer on Sunday, the Holy Father extended “a heartfelt appeal to all of you to continue to pray earnestly for peace in the Holy Land, in the light of the tragic events of recent days.”
He said he still vividly recalls the ‘Invocation for Peace’ meeting of 8 June with Patriarch Bartholomew, President Peres and President Abbas, aimed at breaking the “cycle of hatred and violence.”
“Some might think that such a meeting took place in vain. But no, because prayer helps us not to allow ourselves to be overcome by evil, nor resign ourselves to violence and hatred taking over dialogue and reconciliation,” he said.
Israel launched an aerial campaign on Gaza July 8, the largest and deadliest since 2012. An estimated 150 people have been killed in the bombardment, including some children.
The operation was launched in retaliation for rockets fired by Hamas, often from civilian areas in Gaza, at Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Tensions escalated after the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers in the West Bank in June 2014, for which Israel blamed Hamas.
The Pope urged the parties concerned and the international community to pray and make an effort to put an end to the hostilities. He also invited everyone to unite in prayer, and led the crowd in pausing for a moment of silence.
“Now, Lord, help us! Grant us peace, teach us peace, guide us toward peace,” the Pope said. “Open our eyes and our hearts and give us the courage to say: “Never again war!” “Everything is destroyed by war.”
“Strengthen us in courage to take concrete actions to build peace,” he concluded. “Make us willing to listen to the cry of our citizens who are asking us to transform our weapons into instruments of peace, our fears into trust, and our tensions into forgiveness.”