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As the Catholic Bishops of Ireland, we echo Pope Francis’ heartfelt appeal for a complete ceasefire in Gaza – ‘Enough, please! Let us all say it: enough…Stop!’

Stop the War! In saying this, we join with many in our parishes, together with all people of goodwill, in demanding an immediate end to the daily horror of killing, wounding and destruction of property and infrastructure there.  

We call on the Israeli government to comply with basic human and international standards in ensuring that Palestinians have full and unimpeded access to food, water and basic safety requirements.  At the same time, we call on Hamas to release all hostages and to end missile attacks on Israel.  Equally, the attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank, which do not command as much attention in the public sphere, are also to be condemned.  What is happening in this region cannot be morally justified.

The current aggression is not a war between Jews and Arabs; people of all faiths, including many of the Jewish tradition, oppose what is happening and the effect it is having not only on Israel and Palestine but throughout the wider Middle East and further afield. 

There is no future in the perpetuation of conflict and human suffering.  This is especially so when one considers the intensity of what is happening in the Holy Land.  The only future is one of dialogue and the putting in place of a sustainable plan for a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis and that brings to an end the occupation that has for far too long denied Palestinians their rights and freedoms.

International efforts to secure a ceasefire are welcome.  However, as the death toll continues to rise all possible pressure should be applied to prevail upon Israel to desist from military operations that impact so horrendously on innocent civilians.  Equally, any international support for Hamas terrorism is utterly unacceptable.  The international community has failed to vindicate the right of the Palestinian people to a safe homeland, with statehood and freedom of movement, as part of a two-state solution which recognises both Israel and Palestine.

In this Season of Lent, we Christians prepare for the celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ’s Death and Resurrection, as Muslims prepare for the Season of Ramadan and Jews prepare for the celebration of Passover.  We urge people to continue praying and fasting for the intention of peace.  In praying for peace in the land of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, we remember in a special way the small but vibrant Christian communities in Palestine.  An ideal way of showing solidarity at this time is to support Trócaire’s  Gaza appeal on https://www.trocaire.org/.

We implore Almighty God and Jesus, who is the Light of the world, to shine a light into the terrible darkness that envelops the region that we call the Holy Land.  In the face of despair, we renew our prayers for a just and lasting peace that respects justice and the dignity of all peoples.