.In his own person he killed the hostility. He came to bring the good news of peace to those who are far and to those who are near. (cf Eph 2.17). 

We begin today the traditional period of fast and prayer preceding the feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven. This year, we will fast and pray for peace, for the end of hostilities in Gaza and South Lebanon. We pray for all the parties involved, Palestinians, Israelis and Lebanese. To all of them we wish peace and security.

What is happening now in Gaza and South Lebanon is simply inhuman, whatever be the causes alleged for its justification. The international community should interfere with greater efficiency in order to put an end to it.

We condemn the abducting of an Israeli soldier as prisoner in Gaza, and of the two others in South Lebanon. We wish that the three of them return safely home to their parents and beloved ones. But we condemn at the same time, and as much, the taking of Palestinian prisoners by the Israelis, as well as the keeping, since years, of the 10 thousand Palestinian prisoners in the Israeli prisons. These too have parents and beloved ones waiting for their return. Indeed every human person has an equal human dignity, whether Palestinian or Israeli.
Violence is a death cycle that must be broken, and only the strong can break it. Experience in this conflict has proved that violence has only generated and even increased violence, did not give the required security and it is useless to found a new order or to hope for security as long as the oppression imposed upon the other continues.

Violence cannot and should not be a way of legitimate defense. Military power alone cannot protect. Military reprisals only increase the refusal that encircles Israel in the region. Indeed the result is the deepening of hatred and refusal.
The only action to use for legitimate defense, that can really protect and will have as result the required security, consists simply in putting an end to the initial injustice which is the heart of this long conflict, that is the Palestinian question. It consists in putting an end to the Israeli military occupation imposed for years upon the Palestinians, and giving them back their freedom and their independence. To wait for all manifestation of Palestinian violence to stop in order to take this step is unrealistic and illogical, because as long as the oppression lasts, the oppression will give birth to violence.

Brothers and sisters, pray so that reason prevails upon the spirit of vengeance. Pray so that men and women may know that they are capable of living together in peace. Pray for the ceasing of military actions that impede leaders and soldiers to be human persons and make them agents of killing and demolition. Pray so that God be more present among us and that His presence renders men more human to their brothers and sisters beyond all differences of religion and nationality. Ask the powerful intercession of Our Lady. Ask her to intercede for the sons and daughters of this Land, that is her Land, and that God wanted to be the Land of Redemption and Reconciliation for all.

+ Michel Sabbah, Patriarch