Loading...
Loading...
Click here if you don’t see subscription options
Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, N.M., and Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego are pictured in a combination photo. The two prelates released a Jan. 17, 2024, statement condemning Hamas and calling for an "immediate and total" halt to military action in the Gaza Strip. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz and David Maung)

(OSV News) -- Two U.S. prelates are urging an “immediate and total” ceasefire in the war that has convulsed the Gaza Strip for more than 100 days, while condemning Hamas and urging the release of Israeli hostages taken by the Palestinian militants.

In a Jan. 17 joint statement, Cardinal Robert W. McElroy of San Diego and Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe, New Mexico, said the “tens of thousands” of deaths resulting from the Israel-Hamas war and the risk of wider escalation “calls us as Americans to press for a national policy which is focused unswervingly” on ending the conflict.

The war itself was sparked by Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack -- coinciding with a Sabbath and Jewish holiday -- on some 22 locations in Israel. Hamas members gunned down hundreds of civilians and took 253 hostages, according to Israel, including infants, the elderly and people with disabilities. Of those, 105 were later released by Hamas during a six-day ceasefire in November. The Israeli military reported that 27 hostages have been killed since the Oct. 7 attack, the worst in the modern state of Israel’s history.

Some 1,200 people in Israel, including at least 30 U.S. citizens, were killed by Hamas’ attacks.

Two U.S. prelates are urging an “immediate and total” ceasefire in the war that has convulsed the Gaza Strip for more than 100 days.

A New York Times investigation published Dec. 28 found at least seven locations along the Hamas attack front where Israeli women and girls had been sexually assaulted and mutilated Oct. 7.

Israel declared war on Hamas Oct. 8, placing Gaza under siege and pounding the region with airstrikes as Hamas returned fire. Since then, more than 24,000 people, the vast majority being Palestinian women and children, have been killed in Gaza, according to Palestinian officials.

The ensuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza has left the Middle East “on the verge of the abyss,” said United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres.

“The massacre of ... innocent Israelis, including children, and the abhorrent victimization of women on Oct. 7 stands as a shocking attack by Hamas upon the most basic principles of human dignity,” Cardinal McElroy and Archbishop Wester said in their statement. “It absolutely delegitimates any future role for Hamas in the Middle East and underscores the right of Israel to bring to justice all those who carried out this outrage.

“Moreover, the piercing moral claim of releasing the hostages should be a priority for the whole international community,” they said.

The siege of densely populated Gaza, which “has lasted more than one hundred days,” has claimed the lives of “more than one percent of the entire population of Gaza,” they said, adding that “proportionately for the United States, this would represent more than 3.5 million lives.”

Much of the remaining population has been rendered homeless, they said, since “the infrastructure, housing and commerce of Gaza has been systematically destroyed by Israeli attacks.”

“A humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza before the eyes of the world,” the prelates said. “In such a conflict, continuing such warfare is neither just nor tolerable.”

“It is for these reasons that Pope Francis has called repeatedly in these days for an end to military action in the Holy Land,” Cardinal McElroy and Archbishop Wester said in their statement.

They also pointed to the “tremendous risk that the present war will produce major conflict in Lebanon, increase violence in the West Bank, and cause outbreaks throughout the Middle East.”

Israel and Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based militant and political group designated by the U.S. and more than 60 other nations as a terrorist organization, have exchanged cross-border fire almost daily since the Oct. 7 attack. On Jan. 8, Hezbollah confirmed one of its senior commanders had been killed, allegedly by Israeli forces.

In addition, Houthi militants in Yemen have been attacking commercial vessels in the Red Sea as a sign of solidarity with Hamas. Although claiming to target ships linked to Israel, the group has damaged vessels from a number of countries, prompting retaliatory strikes by a U.S. and U.K.-led coalition.

“It is for these reasons that Pope Francis has called repeatedly in these days for an end to military action in the Holy Land,” Cardinal McElroy and Archbishop Wester said in their statement, adding, “Only such a cease fire can end the humanitarian disaster in Gaza, stop the growing risk of expanded warfare in the Middle East and maximize the chance of returning the hostages to their families alive.”

They said it is critical for those in the U.S. “to support this call for an immediate ceasefire, and to press for our government to make it the centerpiece of its foreign policy in the Middle East at this pivotal moment.

"Our country has a powerful voice on these issues," they said. "Let it echo Pope Francis's call amidst suffering on all sides 'No to weapons, yes to peace.' For this will be the only true pathway for justice in the land that so deeply reflects the presence of God."

The latest from america

U.S. Catholics are more polarized than ever in how they view Pope Francis, even though majorities on both ends of the political spectrum have a positive view of the pope, according to a new survey.
In this special round table episode of “Inside the Vatican,” America Editor-in-Chief Father Sam Sawyer and the Executive Director of Outreach, America’s LGBT Catholic resource, Michael O’Loughlin, join host Colleen Dulle for a discussion on the document “Dignitas Infinita” and the pastoral
Inside the VaticanApril 12, 2024
Miles Teller stars in a scene from the movie "Whiplash." (CNS photo/courtesy Sony Pictures Classics)
Played by Miles Teller, Andrew falls prey to an obsession so powerful that it robs us of the clarity or freedom to make good choices.
John DoughertyApril 12, 2024
In one way or another, these collections bear the traces of the divine, of the needful Christ.
Delaney CoyneApril 12, 2024