As Catholics around the world respond to the Holy Father’s request to devote October 17 to a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Israel, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, offered himself in exchange for children being held hostage by Hamas.
According to the Pontifical Mission Societies, Pope Francis issued an urgent call to the faithful during his weekly Angelus Address on Sunday to dedicate October to a day of prayer and fasting for peace in the world.
“Brothers and sisters, already many have died,” the Pope said. “Please, let no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land nor in Ukraine, nor in any other place! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always! Prayer is the meek and holy force to oppose the diabolical force of hatred, terrorism, and war. I invite all believers to join with the Church in the Holy Land and to dedicate Tuesday, 17 October, to prayer and fasting.”
On October 16, while participating in a video conference with journalists, Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa, the Latin Catholic patriarch of Jerusalem, repeated the Pope’s call for prayer, asking the faithful to organize prayer, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, and recitation of the Rosary on October 17 to implore God the Father to bring about peace and reconciliation in the Holy Land.
As the Catholic News Agency reports, Cardinal Pizzaballa was asked during the conference if he would be willing to offer himself in exchange to free the children hostages who were taken in Hamas’ attack on Israel last week.
“Am I ready for an exchange? Anything, if that can lead to freedom and bring those children home, no problem. There is an absolute availability on my part,” the cardinal said.
It is necessary to get these hostages back, he said, adding that “We are willing to help, even me personally.”
According to Israel Defense Forces, an estimated 199 Israeli hostages are being held by the terrorist group, Hamas, in Gaza.
The Vatican has offered to help mediate a peace agreement between the two sides. Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin said in an interview that the Vatican’ primary concern in the conflict is “the release of Israeli hostages and the protection of innocent lives in Gaza.”
“I do not know how much room for dialogue there can be between Israel and the Hamas militia,” Parolin said. “But if there is — and we hope there is — it should be pursued immediately and without delay. The Holy See is ready for any necessary mediation, as always,” he said.
It is no coincidence that the date chosen for this day of prayer and fasting is the feast of St. Ignatius of Antioch, the heroic martyr who surrendered his life during the Christian persecutions in the second century AD. Just before bravely meeting the lions in the Circus Maximus, he wrote a letter to Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, in which he said, “The only thing I ask of you is to allow me to offer the libation of my blood to God. I am the wheat of the Lord; may I be ground by the teeth of the beasts to become the immaculate bread of Christ.”
On this day dedicated to prayer and fasting for peace in the world, let us remember the heroic martyrdom of St. Ignatius and ask him to intercede for all those who are suffering the scourge of war, and those who are working to bring about a resolution and a lasting peace.
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