The Catholic Bishops of New Zealand have sent this letter (below) to Pope Francis acknowledging his efforts to bring the leaders of both the Israeli and Palestinean people together for prayer, and his ongoing plea for an end to violence and for peaceful solutions.
The Bishops are asking New Zealanders to pray unceasingly for lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinean people.
The Bishops also urge New Zealanders to the support the Caritas Humanitarian effort in Gaza - two ways that we can help from so far away. Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand has provided an initial grant of $20,000 for humanitarian efforts in Gaza. These funds are the result of the people’s generosity through the Caritas Gifts and Gifts of Peace programme. www.caritasgifts.org.nz
It is with great sadness and anguish that we watch the terrible conflict in Gaza from faraway New Zealand. Our sense of helplessness is relieved a little by constant prayer for the cessation of the current conflict and for a resolution of the longstanding issues which underlie it. But we pray in the comfort of a land that really only knows peace, and which is a long way from international conflicts.
Knowledge of the appalling suffering in Gaza fills us with a sense of desperation and leads us to ask what else we can do to alleviate the suffering and help bring peace. We are encouraging our people to support the work of Caritas in Gaza. We are urging them to pray, individually and together, for an end to the fighting and a true and lasting resolution. These are significant steps but still more is needed, and for those of us who live in peace there is an obligation to do everything possible to bring the gift of peace to others. Holy Father, Gaza has been a prison for the last seven years. The blockade has destroyed the Gazan economy, and the same blockade now prevents people fleeing from Gaza to safety. The people cannot even exercise their right to become refugees by crossing the border to escape the fighting.
When you entered the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian people by bringing President Mahmoud Abbas and President Shimon Peres together for prayer, it was an inspiration of the Holy Spirit. You stood with the two Presidents in a way that has never been seen before, and you continue to talk with them. We know you will use all the resources of the Holy See and the moral leadership inherent in your role to do everything possible to bring about a cessation of the fighting and true and lasting peace between the Palestinian people and Israel.
We respectfully draw your attention to the request of Father Raed, the parish priest of Holy Family Parish in Gaza who said: “I launch a humble appeal to Pope Francis: may you convene a vigil of prayer and fasting for peace in the Holy Land, as you did for Syria. All the people who inhabit this land, the land of Jesus, are tired of living in fear and pain". This prayer vigil is taking place in the countries close to Gaza, but the magnitude of the disaster is so great, that we ask if the Holy See could make this a global vigil.
We assure you of our prayerful support and that of the Church in New Zealand, and our loyalty as you continue to lead us to be authentic witnesses to the Gospel.
+John Dew Archbishop of Wellington
+Patrick Dunn Bishop of Auckland
+Charles Drennan Bishop of Palmerston North
+Denis Browne Bishop of Hamilton
+Colin Campbell Bishop of Dunedin
+Barry Jones Bishop of Christchurch
+Peter Cullinane Emeritus Bishop of Palmerston North