JERUSALEM — Warning that violence will never bring peace, Pope Francis urged all sides to do all they can to foster dialogue in the Middle East.
“I am very worried about the intensifying tensions in the Holy Land and the Middle East and about the spiral of violence that increasingly leads away from the path of peace, dialogue and negotiations,” he said in an appeal May 16 at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square.
The Associated Press reported that May 14, the same day the United States was inaugurating its embassy in Jerusalem, Israeli forces shot and killed 57 Palestinians and injured more than 2,700 people during mass protests along the Gaza border. In addition, a baby died from tear gas inhalation, the Gaza Health Ministry said, bringing the death toll to 58.
Expressing his sadness for those killed and injured, and prayers for all who are suffering, the pope underlined that violence is never of any use for bringing peace.
“War is called war, violence is called violence,” he said.
“I invite all those involved and the international community to renew their commitment so that dialogue, justice and peace may prevail,” he said, before leading the thousands of people gathered in the square in praying the Hail Mary.
Earlier, the head of Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarchate called for prayers for peace as the world witnesses “another outburst of hatred and violence, which is once again bleeding all over the Holy Land.”
“We need to pray more for peace and our conversion and for all,” stated Archbishop Pierbattista Pizzaballa, apostolic administrator of the patriarchate, or diocese.
“The lives of so many young people have once again been shut down and hundreds of families are mourning their loved ones, dead or wounded,” according to the statement from Archbishop Pizzaballa. “As in a kind of vicious circle, we must condemn all forms of violence, any cynical use of human lives and disproportionate violence. Once again we are forced by circumstances to plead and cry out for justice and peace!”
He announced that May 19, the eve of Pentecost, there would be a prayer vigil at the Church of St. Stephen at L’Ecole Biblique. He asked the entire diocese to dedicate a day of prayer and fasting for the peace of Jerusalem and that the liturgy on Pentecost be dedicated to prayer for peace.
“We must truly pray to the Spirit to change our hearts to better understand his will and to give us the strength to continue to work for justice and peace,” the archbishop stated.
Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and now feel that, with its embassy there, the U.S. isn’t a fair broker in the peace process with Israel.
Many Israelis see opening the embassy as the long-awaited official recognition of Jerusalem as their capital and the fulfillment of a promise made by numerous U.S. presidents to move the building from Tel Aviv.
In a statement released May 14, Pax Christi International stated it recognized the 70th anniversary of two historic events this year: the 70th anniversary of the creation of the State of Israel and the Naqba.
“These two events are forever interconnected. Pax Christi members and partners will once again stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, especially those who, after seven decades, remain refugees, as they mark this solemn anniversary,” according to the statement. It called for the right of return and/or compensation for Palestinian refugees as a prerequisite for a just and fair Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement, for which Pax Christi said an increased commitment from the international community is “urgently necessary.”