Australia’s Catholic Bishops have called for people of faith to pray for peace in the Holy Land as a visiting UN expert warned that the Israel-Gaza war is robbing a generation of children of their future.
Perth Archbishop Timothy Costelloe SDB, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, expressed “grief and anguish” over the suffering of people in the Holy Land in a 10 November statement from the bishops’ plenary gathering in Sydney.
“These are not simply news stories or television dramas: they are the stories of real people,” the bishops said.
According to Gaza’s ministry of health more than 11,000 people have been killed in the contested coastal strip and many more injured in Israel’s response after Hamas mounted terrorist attacks on 7 October, killing over 1200 Israeli soldiers and civilians, and taking more than 240 hostages.
“Remembering the long history that has led to the current violence in the Middle East is the first step to finding a way beyond the violence to a just end of the conflict,” said the bishops, adding that peace “can only come from justice.”
“We call people of faith to pray with us for a lasting peace and the triumph of human dignity.
“As we turn to God in prayer, we also encourage acts of charity and generosity to provide for the material needs of people who are isolated and facing the greatest hardship. The need is urgent.
“Properly administered aid could mean the difference between life and death for innocent civilians, and so we call for immediate access for humanitarian agencies.
Archbishop Peter Comensoli separately issued a strong condemnation of anti-Semitism after ugly clashes in the Melbourne suburbs of Caulfield on 10 November, which saw a local business destroyed and a synagogue evacuated.
“The explosion of explicit antisemitism in parts of Australian society—on university campuses, in street protests, in mainstream and social media, and even among some claiming Christian belief—is shocking and deeply distressing,” the archbishop said.
“It speaks of the re-emergence of a latent distrust and culpable ignorance of the People of Jewish heritage, fuelled by deliberately fostered hatreds and loathing, and tied into dishonest agendas from extreme standpoints, both from the left and from the right.”
On 12 November at a fundraising dinner in Liverpool to support displaced families in Gaza, Francesca Albanese, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the occupied territories, said a “re-humanisation” of the discourse on the Israel-Gaza war, centred on the children caught in the crossfire, is urgently needed—and in the interests of both sides.
She warned that Israel “might be committing genocide” against the Palestinian people in both Gaza and the West Bank, as a “paralysed” international community looks on.
Albanese told the gathering, organised by the group Palestinian Christians in Australia, that she had spoken to traumatised children and their families in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank by Zoom in recent months.
“It was a very moving experience because these young lives carry trauma and intergenerational trauma,” she said.
“It’s very transparent and visible in their bodies, their speech and their movement.
“Before October 7 in the last 20 years 1025 Palestinian children had already been killed and 25 Israeli children.”