VATICAN CITY (CNS): In the midst of the worst violence between Palestinians and Israelis in 20 years, Church leaders have urged leaders of both sides to return immediately to the negotiation table and break the cycle of bloody attacks.
Catholic institutions and parishes were caught in the crossfire of the violence, which left more than 100 Palestinians and 50 Israelis dead in the first 10 days of March. An Israeli missile hit the Church-run Bethlehem University, and other shells struck a parish school in the city.
At the Vatican, Pope John Paul II called for an immediate ceasefire and respect for international law in the embattled region. Speaking on March 3, he said the news from Jerusalem had deeply saddened him.
“The violence, death and reprisal can only push civilian populations, whether Israeli or Palestinian, toward desperation and hatred. May an immediate ceasefire, together with a renewed sense of humanity and the respect of international law, silence the weapons and allow peace to be heard in the region,” he said.
On March 9, the heads of Churches in Jerusalem issued a similar appeal in a letter titled, “A Call to all the People of the Holy Land”. It expressed deep concern over the spiralling violence and called on “everyone to take the appropriate measures to stop further massacres or tragedies for our two peoples”.