Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, in collaboration with patriarchs and church leaders in Jerusalem, has issued an appeal urging Israel to implement a humanitarian ceasefire aimed at ensuring the safe delivery of aid to residents of Gaza.
“I join with the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem calling for a humanitarian ceasefire so that aid can safely reach the innocent civilians of Gaza,” the head of the Church of England and the worldwide Anglican Communion said in an October 22 message posted on his official account on X, the online platform formerly known as Twitter.
Palestinian authorities claim more than 450 people died in the incident. Both Israel and the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas have blamed each other for the tragedy, which followed a brutal October 7 attack by Hamas on Israel that claimed more than 1,400 lives.
“The evil and heinous terror attacks by Hamas on people in Israel were crimes and God and humanity,” Welby’s statement read. “The fundamental question is this: what kind of society can be envisaged both for a secure Israeli state and a secure neighboring Palestinian state.”
The archbishop also bemoaned the deaths of 18 Christians in an October 19 Israeli air strike that partially destroyed the Church of St. Porphyrius, a Christian Orthodox house of worship in Gaza City that functioned as a refuge during periods of conflict involving Israel and Gaza-based militants.
“I join with my brother in Christ, Patriarch Theophilos III, in horror and grief that the Orthodox Church compound in Gaza was struck last night,” Welby said in an October 20 statement, referring to the Orthodox patriarch of Jerusalem. “When we met in Jerusalem this morning, the death toll was still unknown and people were still buried under the rubble.”
Welby clarified certain remarks he made in an interview to the Times of Israel in which he mentioned the words “blood libel” in reference to widespread accusations—lacking in any evidence—that Israel was behind the al-Ahli Arab hospital attack.
In an October 23 statement released by his office, the archbishop acknowledged he had employed the words during his newspaper interview but added that he regretted using them.
“Blood libel” is a false accusation that typically claims that Jews engages in ritualistic murder of non-Jews to use their blood for religious or ritual purposes. The term has historically been used to fuel antisemitic sentiments and violence against Jewish communities.
“I regret the use of the phrase ‘blood libel’ in that interview,” the statement quoted Welby as saying. “There is so much suffering in this terrible war, and so many competing accounts of countless acts of violence, that two things are essential: that we do not rush to judgement, and that we choose our words carefully.”
“I was attempting to articulate that many Jewish people are deeply conscious of a long history of accusations that trace back to the darkest times of their history,” the archbishop went on to say. “That must be borne in mind when we respond to events in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.”
“Especially here in Europe,” added Welby, “the vast increase of the profound wickedness of antisemitism must be resisted, and that must involve being aware of that history.”