US Catholic bishops plea for ceasefire in Mideast

Representing the US Conference of Catholic Bishops' Committee on International Peace, Bishop Howard Hubbard is calling for President Bush to take action to end the escalation of violence in the Holy Land.

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard of Albany, of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), called on US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice to urge President George W. Bush to “take immediate action to help end the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel” in a December 30 letter.

Bishop Hubbard requested that President Bush “send a high level personal representative to the region immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire and make provision for humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.” More than 300 deaths in Hamas-controlled Gaza have been attributed to Israeli airstrikes in retaliation for weeks of bombardment by Hamas' mortar fire and rockets. Rumors are rife that some of the Hamas leadership is taking refuge in hospitals, using fellow Palestinians as human shields.

Decrying both the unjustified rocket attacks on Israeli civilians and the disproportionate military actions of Israelis causing unacceptable casualties among Palestinian civilians, Bishop Hubbard said the USCCB links this call for peace with the recent appeal of Pope Benedict XVI for the parties in this conflict to reject violence and pursue “the path of dialogue and negotiations.”

“At a time when the attention of Christians is drawn naturally to the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, it is tragic that innocent civilians are once again the victims of armed conflict and a humanitarian crisis,” Bishop Hubbard said. “A ceasefire and humanitarian relief are indispensable initial steps on the road to a two-state solution—a secure Israel living in peace with a viable Palestinian state—with justice and peace for both peoples.”

Here follows the text of the letter from Bishop to Secretary Rice:

Dear Secretary Rice:

As Chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, I urge you to take immediate action to help end the escalation of violence between Hamas and Israel. The rocket attacks on Israel must be stopped, and Israel’s military attacks on Gaza halted. Our Conference believes that more than words are needed. We ask you to urge the President to send a high level personal representative to the region immediately to help negotiate a ceasefire and make provision for humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.

The toll in human deaths and suffering, the negative effects on progress in negotiations for peace and the risks of wider war caused by this escalation of violence cannot be allowed to continue. Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has called on the international community to help Israelis and Palestinians to discard the “dead end” of violence and pursue instead “the path of dialogue and negotiations.” Immediate, visible and decisive U.S. leadership is urgently needed.

Our Conference will encourage Catholics to support active U.S. engagement to achieve a ceasefire and we are prepared to do whatever we can to be helpful to efforts to halt the violence and restore progress toward peace.

At a time when the attention of Christians is drawn naturally to the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, it is tragic that innocent civilians are once again the victims of armed conflict and a humanitarian crisis. A ceasefire and humanitarian relief are indispensable initial steps on the road to a two-state solution—a secure Israel living in peace with a viable Palestinian state—with justice and peace for both peoples.

Sincerely yours,



Most Reverend Howard J. Hubbard
Bishop of Albany
Chairman, Committee on International Justice
and Peace



Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

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