Despite Gaza violence, Catholic relief agency works for peace

An Israeli tank moves positions near the Israeli-Gaza border the morning of July 18, 2014 near Sderot, Israel. Late last night Israel sent troops into Gaza. Credit: Andrew Burton/Getty Images.

Though fighting has escalated between Israel and Palestinian militants based in the Gaza Strip, a Catholic Relief Services spokeswoman has stressed that the agency still aims to advance peace in the region.

“This conflict has dimmed the prospects for peace among Israelis and Palestinians, but as a Catholic organization, we are called to be peacemakers,” Liz O’Neill, Catholic Relief Services’ communications officer for the Middle East region, told CNA July 17.

“We continually advocate for our leaders in Washington to take concrete steps to promote a peaceful resolution to the conflict and reach out to Catholic communities in the United States so they can learn about the situation and pray for peace.”

O’Neill, speaking before the Israeli military started its Thursday night ground offensive, noted the conflict’s effects on both Israel and Palestine, saying violence is “inescapable” in Gaza.

“Drones constantly hover overhead, incoming airstrikes, mortars, tank shells, and naval bombardment are unrelenting, and there is nowhere to run. Entire families have been annihilated in an instant.”

In Israel, she said, “warning sirens disrupt daily life, and in the south, families must regularly take refuge in bomb shelters. Fear and uncertainty are a constant feature of daily life.”

Since July 7 Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip have fired more than 1,300 rockets on Israel, and the Israelis have responded with nearly 2,000 airstrikes. The recent escalation in violence between Israel and Hamas followed the June kidnapping and murder of three Israeli teens and the July 2 killing of a Palestinian teenager in Jerusalem.

Thousands of Israeli soldiers invaded the Gaza Strip July 17 in an effort to destroy Hamas’ weapons arsenals and their tunnels into Israel. Earlier that day, 13 Hamas militants attempted to enter Israel through one tunnel, only to be stopped by an Israeli military strike.

O’Neill lamented the violence.

“The current round of violence has once again definitively highlighted that the status quo is not sustainable, and that the only way out of this cycle of violence is a just, secure, lasting negotiated solution to the conflict,” she said.

“The full extent of the humanitarian crisis will depend on how long this goes on.”

Israeli attacks since July 8 have killed more than 270 Palestinians, at least 75 percent of whom were civilians and 20 percent of whom were children.

Another 1,400 Palestinian civilians have been injured, and some 40,000 have become displaced, according to the U.N.

Hamas' recent attacks have killed one Israeli civilian, and severely injured several.

Before the ground invasion, Catholic Relief Services had planned to distribute essential supplies to 500 families whose Gaza homes had been damaged or destroyed.

“We’re also planning to distribute vouchers to farmers who can no longer grow food because their land has been damaged by Israeli airstrikes,” O'Neill said.

The Catholic relief agency, which is the U.S. bishops' international relief and development agency, temporarily closed its Gaza office due to the violence.

The agency has been working in the Holy Land since 1961. Its initial focus on emergency response, food distribution and vaccination programs has now shifted to developing economic and social opportunities.

“Currently, we help plant the seeds for peace by working with grassroots organizations to enhance their ability to advocate for themselves, to hold government accountable and transparent and to give marginalized groups a voice,” O’Neill said.

“All of our work in the Holy Land is geared towards laying the foundation for a peaceful two-state solution and creating the conditions for a viable Palestinian state.”
O’Neill said the agency aims to carry out the U.S. bishops' “long-held position promoting a just, secure and stable two-state solution for both Israelis and Palestinians.”


Seeking the face of God in the Scriptures

Archbishop José H. Gomez

Prayer is seeking the face of God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church recalls the story of how St. John Vianney once found a peasant praying in front of the Blessed Sacrament. The saint asked him what he was doing, and the man replied: “I look at him and he looks at me.”


February 2016
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat

February 14, 2016

  • Sunday, February 14

    Mother Cabrini Library and Chapel Open House, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m., 3801 Scott Road, Burbank. The event is hosted by the Los Angeles Region.


    Italian Catholic Club of SCV Valentine's Day Dinner Dance, 7 p.m., Our Lady of Perpetual Help (Parish Hall), 23233 Lyons Ave., Newhall. Come enjoy a delicious gourmet buffet dinner and dance the night away to the music of Linda Pippin. Wear your favorite red dress, shirt and/or tie. All adults (single or married) are welcome. Tickets are $35 each (prepaid), or $45 at the door. Please call Anna Riggs at (661) 645-7877 to reserve your spot by Feb. 10.


    Stations of the Cross, 2 p.m. Calvary Cemetery, 4201 Whittier Boulevard, East Los Angeles. Continuing each Sunday of Lent. For more info, please call Calvary Cemetery: 323-261-3106.


    Year of Mercy Mass and Pilgrimage in The Shrine of St. John Paul II, 3 p.m., Our Lady of the Bright Mount Church, 3424 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles.  Mass celebrated in English with Fr. John Paul Gonzalez of Christ the King Church.  Mass will be followed by Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and confession, with Divine Mercy Chaplet.  The closing prayer will be a blessing and veneration of the 1st class relic of St. John Paul II.  

    South Bay Catholic Co-ed Adult Softball League Pre-Season Practice Games, McMaster Park, 3624 Artesia Blvd., Torrance.  Must RSVP to Fred Lawler (League Commissioner) at (310) 504-0271 or

Get our news by email

Bob Smith BMW 300x250
Bob Smith Toyota 300x250
Bob Smith Mini 300x250