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Oct. 17 is day of prayer, fasting for peace in Holy Land

Pilgrims from the Diocese of Arlington, Va., pray in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City Oct. 10, 2023. Pilgrims who were in Israel following a surprise terrorist attack by Hamas against civilian communities in southern Israel Oct. 7 lit candles and said prayers of peace at the church as fighting continued in southern Israel. (OSV News photo/Debbie Hill)
Pilgrims from the Diocese of Arlington, Va., pray in the courtyard of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem's Old City Oct. 10, 2023. Pilgrims who were in Israel following a surprise terrorist attack by Hamas against civilian communities in southern Israel Oct. 7 lit candles and said prayers of peace at the church as fighting continued in southern Israel. (OSV News photo/Debbie Hill)

(OSV News) — As war between Israel and Hamas rages, Catholics in the U.S. are heeding a call to pray and fast for peace in the Holy Land.

In an Oct. 13 statement, the patriarchs and heads of the churches of Jerusalem urged “the people of our congregations and all those of goodwill around the world to observe a Day of Prayer and Fasting” on Oct. 17.

The efforts are “in support of all those who have suffered in this war and of the families reeling from the violence,” said the statement.

On Oct. 7, Hamas militants stormed from the Gaza Strip into approximately 22 locations in Israel, gunning down civilians and taking at least 199 hostages, according to Israel, including infants, the elderly and people with disabilities.

The coordinated attack took place on a Sabbath that marked the final day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, which celebrates the gathering of the harvest and the divine protection of the ancient Israelites as they escaped from slavery in Egypt.

Israel declared war on Hamas Oct. 8, placing Gaza under siege and pounding the region with airstrikes. Hamas has continued to launch strikes against Israel. To date, some 1,400 in Israel, including at least 30 U.S. citizens, and more than 2,700 in Gaza have been killed. Israel placed Gaza under siege, and has warned some 1.1 million in Gaza to move south within the enclave ahead of an expected ground offensive by Israeli forces. So far, half a million in Gaza have heeded the evacuation order, according to the Israel Defense Forces, as United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said the Middle East is “on the verge of the abyss.”

“There is yet time to stop the hatred,” said the Jerusalem patriarchs and heads of churches in their statement.

Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem — who has offered himself in exchange for the hostages — particularly urged “prayer times with Eucharistic adoration and with the recitation of the rosary to Our Blessed Virgin Mary.”

“This is the way we all come together despite everything, and unite collectively in prayer, to deliver to God the Father our thirst for peace, justice and reconciliation,” said Cardinal Pizzaballa in an Oct. 11 letter.

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops posted to X, formally known as Twitter, Oct. 12 that they “join Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, and all the Ordinaries of the Holy Land in calling for a day of fasting, abstinence and prayer” Oct. 17.

Bishop David M. O’Connell of Trenton, New Jersey, echoed that exhortation, saying “we need to pray.”

He directed faithful “in this month of the rosary” to “pray this most effective prayer that our Blessed Mother will intercede with her Divine Son for the people affected by the current war. Pray for peace.”

Bishop Michael F. Burbidge of Arlington asked faithful in his diocese to join him “in participating in this sacrificial offering to God with the intention to end the violence and hatred in the midst of this crisis.”

“May the Lord Jesus, Prince of Peace, transform hearts, bring an end to war, violence and suffering, and grant peace to the world,” said Bishop Burbidge.

The Diocese of Grand Rapids, Michigan listed a number of parishes offering Mass, Eucharistic adoration, the sacrament of Reconciliation and recitations of the rosary and the Divine Mercy chaplet.

Women religious have also rallied around the observance. The International Union of Superiors General invited its members to observe the day of fasting and prayer, saying in a message to members that “in this moment of deep concern and sorrow for the situation we are facing, we wish to share a ray of hope.”

“This is a time when we want to come together as a global community, praying together for a world where peace prevails over violence, justice over discord, and reconciliation over hatred,” they said. “United in prayer, we can bring our desire for peace and justice to God the Father.”

The Leadership Conference of Women Religious reiterated that message, adding that congregations may want to organize their members “for a specific time of prayer together.”

Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @GinaJesseReina.

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