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Echoing the words of Pope Francis for an urgent appeal for a lasting ceasefire, Cardinal Vincent Nichols has today called for the release of all hostages, for humanitarian aid to be allowed through to help those most in need in Gaza, and for hospitals, schools and places of worship to be protected.

In his statement, the Cardinal writes:

'On 8th January, when speaking to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis addressed the terrible conflict in the Holy Land. He said: 

'"To all the parties involved, I renew my appeal for a cease-fire on every front, including Lebanon, and the immediate liberation of all the hostages held in Gaza. I ask that the Palestinian people receive humanitarian aid and that hospitals, schools and places of worship receive all necessary protection."

'This appeal takes on a fresh urgency at this moment of extreme danger if a ground offensive were to be launched in southern Gaza, in an area densely peopled by those already made homeless by this conflict. It is an appeal being echoed by many at this time, to whose voices I readily add my own.

'Let us pray insistently for relief for those who face multiple dangers, for an immediate cessation of armed conflict and for every serious attempt at a lasting ceasefire to be sustained.

'In this Diocese of Westminster I have called for a special time of prayer on 8th March, as a vital part of our observance of Lent. I invite others to take up this call, too.'