Update: Pope expresses concern about ‘spiral of violence’ in Holy Land

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IMAGE: CNS photo/Mohammed Salem, Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN
CITY (CNS) — 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
during 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.”

The
pope then sent his good wishes to all Muslims at the start of the month of
Ramadan. “May this special time of prayer and fasting help in walking the
path of God, which is the path of peace,”
he said.

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,” said 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,” said the statement May 15 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, the
church would hold 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 said.

Palestinians claim Jerusalem as their capital and now
feel that, with its embassy there, the U.S. cannot be 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.

The Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land, which
includes Archbishop Pizzaballa and bishops of the Eastern Catholic churches in
the region, reiterated the Catholic Church’s position that moving the U.S.
embassy and “any unilateral move or decision about the Holy City of
Jerusalem doesn’t contribute to advancing the long-awaited peace between
Israelis and Palestinians.”

“We believe that there is no reason that could
prevent the city from being the capital of Israel and Palestine, but this
should be done through negotiation and mutual respect,” said the statement
from the assembly May 15.

The Catholic leaders also said the deaths and injuries
along the Israeli-Gaza border “or most of them, could have been avoided if
non-lethal tools had been used by the Israeli forces.”

The assembly called on “all parties involved to
avoid use of violence and to find ways to end siege imposed on about 2 million
Palestinians in Gaza Strip as soon as possible.”