U.S. Bishops on Middle East Violence

WASHINGTON (CNS) — Citing continuing conflict in the Middle East, the U.S. bishops’ Administrative Committee reiterated its support for the region’s bishops and all people of faith, urging them to stand against violence even in the face of hostility and aggression.

A statement from the committee, which concluded a two-day meeting in Washington March 14, called for a “change of heart and mind on the part of all those who sow division and hatred.”

Bishop William F. Murphy of Rockville Centre, N.Y., a member of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, told Catholic News Service the statement calls upon Christians especially to respond to violence in a nonviolent manner.

“As the statement says, violence begets violence,” Bishop Murphy said. “Pope John Paul II said that many years ago, and it remains true. When one person has his or her dignity violated, then there are three possibilities: They can run away; they can turn around and respond with violence; or they can learn how to stand their ground without being violent.

“The third is the one that the Lord imposes upon us. That takes restraint. It takes suffering. But it needs to be supported. That third choice, which is the true choice, needs to be supported by Catholic bishops,” he said.

Bishop Murphy explained that the statement refers to all forms of violence in the entire region rather than specific incidents.

The four-paragraph statement was adopted unanimously, he said.

“I do know from my personal relations with a number of bishops in the Middle East, that they take our words to heart and that they find a great deal of comfort in the solidarity that we offer to them,” Bishop Murphy added. The statement acknowledged the difficult circumstances that Catholic bishops face as they guide the church and its members in the face of conflict.

“We insist that peace, which is ultimately a gift of God, must be made the goal of every nation not only internally but in consort with all the nations and peoples of the region,” the statement said.

“When innocent women and children are slaughtered, when journalists are killed pursuing their profession, when the defenseless are cut down on their way to work or even in their homes, then those responsible must be brought to reasonable justice. Violence so often leads to more violence. War is always a loss for humanity whether it be civil and internal or nation to nation,” it said. The administrative committee also urged “our brothers and sisters in the Christian churches as well as all our brothers and sisters and the religious leaders of all faiths to renew their commitment to work together, to pray and to use all their good offices to offer an alternative to division, conflict and violence.”

Bishop Murphy also called for prayers for the people in the region.

“I have trust in the Lord and I have trust his power is stronger than our words,” he said.

Click here for the full text of the bishops’ statement:

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