July 22, 2014
Dear Brother Bishops,
May God bless you!
On Sunday, July 20, our Holy Father, Pope Francis, prayed for peace in all situations of tension and conflict in the world. He mentioned in particular the Middle East and Ukraine, singling out the terrible crisis of Christians in Iraq with these words: “Today our brothers are persecuted. They are banished from their homes and forced to flee without even being able to take their belongings!”
Our own Conference of Bishops has called attention to numerous situations of violence that cry out for peace. There is the terrible conflict between Israel and Hamas that terrorizes Israeli civilians and has cost the lives of more than 500 Gazans, most of whom are civilians. There are the alarming conflicts in Syria and Iraq that have caused millions to flee their homes and tens of thousands to lose their lives. We are mindful of the violent conflict in Ukraine, of the thousands who are displaced, and the hundreds of innocent civilians whose lives were cut short when a passenger jet was shot down. In Africa there are the often forgotten clashes in South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo that have displaced millions. Closer to home, there is the violence in Central America that is driving unaccompanied children to seek refuge in our country.
All of these tragic situations, and sadly many more, demand our prayer and action for peace. On Sunday, Pope Francis pleaded: “May the God of peace arouse in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with violence. Violence is overcome with peace!” Let us join our prayers and calls to action with his.
In the coming days and weeks I urge you to ask our Catholic people to pray for peace and to support diplomatic efforts aimed at dialogue and reconciliation. As Jesus admonishes us: “Blessed are the peacemakers” (Matthew 5:9). This can be done in personal prayers and in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass.
We should never underestimate the power of prayer; for it touches and opens us to the power of God among us. My prayer is that together we might help open our world to God’s gift of peace, a peace that the world cannot give (cf. John 14:27).
Fraternally yours in our Lord,
Most Reverend Joseph E. Kurtz, D.D.
Archbishop of Louisville
President, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops