U.S. bishops urge faithful to join in day of prayer and fasting for peace in Holy Land — By: Catholic News Agency

Israel unleashed an attack in the northern Gaza Strip on Oct. 12, 2023, in Gaza City, Gaza. / Credit: Ahmad Hasaballah/Getty Images

CNA Staff, Oct 16, 2023 / 16:52 pm (CNA).

Bishops across the United States are urging Catholics to take part in a day of prayer and fasting on Tuesday, Oct. 17, for peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land as war continues to devastate that region.

The day of prayer comes amid the second week of war between Israel and the terrorist group Hamas, the latter of which launched a surprise attack on Israel Oct. 7, which resulted in the deaths of 1,300 Israelis and international civilians.

Israel subsequently declared war and vowed a siege of the Gaza Strip. The death toll in Gaza stood at approximately 2,700 people as of Monday, according to the BBC.

The Latin Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, last week urged Catholics to devote Oct. 17 to prayer with Eucharistic adoration and recitation of the rosary “to deliver to God the Father our thirst for peace, justice, and reconciliation.” The day of prayer falls on the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the first-century bishop and martyr from Syria.

Pizzaballa serves as the head of Latin Catholics living in Israel, the Palestinian territories, Jordan, and Cyprus. 

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) amplified Pizzaballa’s request on social media last week, joining the prelate “in calling for a day of fasting, abstinence, and prayer on October 17th.”

Individual bishops across the country issued similar calls to their flocks to participate. 

“I would like to join with the pastors in asking that we lift our hearts in prayer to our loving God, asking the Lord to cleanse us of hatred and sin, to bring and end to violence and war, to embrace the lost, heal the wounded, and console the sorrowful,” Providence Bishop Richard Henning said in an Oct. 16 message in English and Spanish.

“In the face of terrible deeds, may the Lord raise up in our hearts a renewed sense of compassion and solidarity,” Henning said. “Please consider finding a way to unite in prayer. … Perhaps you might wish to pray a rosary, spend time in adoration, or find time for quiet prayer.”

Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln shared Pizzaballa’s request on social media on Monday. “I urge all Catholics of the Diocese of Lincoln to a Day of Prayer and Fasting for peace in the Holy Land tomorrow, Oct. 17th,” the bishop wrote. 

In Pittsburgh, Bishop David Zubik asked all clergy to make the day of prayer and fasting “part of their daily Masses to communicate the request as widely as possible to their parishioners for their own devotions and, if possible, to offer a time of Eucharistic adoration,” the diocese said.

And in Austin, Texas, Bishop Joe Vásquez asked for “prayers for an end to this warfare,” calling on Our Lady of the Holy Rosary to “intercede for the people in the Holy Land and bring them comfort and strength during this time of uncertainty and great pain.”

Speaking from Rome where he was participating in Pope Francis’ Synod on Synodality, Cardinal Joseph Tobin of Newark encouraged his people to heed Pizzaballa’s request. 

“Let us join with our sisters and brothers in the Holy Land and throughout the world in fervent, heartfelt prayer for peace, justice, and reconciliation. Let us work tirelessly to make peace with justice a reality in our hearts, our communities, and among all nations and peoples,” Tobin said Oct. 13. 

The Archdiocese of Denver, led by Archbishop Samuel Aquila, urged the faithful to join in prayer for Israel as well as and all innocent people harmed in the ongoing war.

“Violence is not a religious act and cannot be claimed as Godly,” the archdiocese said in an Oct. 13 statement. “As Hamas hides behind their atrocities, innocent men, women, and children are dying. This profound evil affects every corner of their homeland, touching all its people, including the Christian community in both Israel and Palestine. And in the wake of these attacks, politics must be put aside.”

The archdiocese urged the faithful to “humbly pray that the love and peace of Jesus comfort all who are living with the atrocities of the pure evil occurring. May his perpetual light shine within the hearts of those who are afraid, those who are grieving, and all those who still suffer from the wrath of unthinkable darkness that has plagued their lands.”

In Wisconsin, Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay said in a letter that he was encouraging individuals, families, and parishes to unite with Christians around the world in prayer for peace. 

“After viewing the evil and horrific actions committed against the people of Israel, I am deeply disturbed and grieve the loss of innocent life,” he said. “I also feel compelled to speak out against and strongly condemn the violent attacks against vulnerable and innocent people that unfolded before our eyes.”

“I am particularly grieved that these acts of violence come against our elder brothers and sisters in the faith, the Jewish people,” the bishop said. “Scripture is clear that the Lord chose to walk closely with the Jewish people, the Chosen People of Israel. Yet throughout history, they have repeatedly been the object of violence, attack, even genocide. This hatred for the Jewish people must come to an end.”

Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, New Jersey, similarly urged the faithful to organize themselves to make prayer a priority on Oct. 17. 

O’Connell quoted Pizzaballa’s request for the faithful to “organize prayer times with Eucharistic adoration and with the recitation of the rosary to Our Blessed Virgin Mary.”

The bishop also encouraged readers to donate to Catholic Relief Services’ humanitarian efforts.

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