The war now taking place in the Middle East has left hundreds of dead, many injured, a vast mass of homeless and displaced people, cities and infrastructures destroyed, while hatred and thirst for revenge are growing in the hearts of many.
There are victims on all sides: Both those in Israel, obliged to live in shelters, as well as the great multitude of Lebanese, who once more, see their country being destroyed.
Over the past week our eyes have been filled with the chilling images of bodies -- especially children's -- torn apart. Nothing can justify the spilling of innocent blood, no matter which side does it.
Some people have been saying that such catastrophes involving the Holy Lands are signs of the "end times," as spoken of in the Book of Revelation and other prophetic passages in the Bible.
Christians have always looked upon such events with deep misgivings and anxiety. History has shown us that other centuries since the passing of the first Christian millennium have closed with about a decade of gradually escalating dread and a new decade filled with more of the same.
Such dread was certainly intensified in the final years of the last millennium and the first years of this one -- threats of terror and violence, natural catastrophes, disease and massive destruction.
When millennialism and "end times" beset our age, there is always the risk of seeing everything and every disaster as an overture for still greater cataclysms that will surely follow.
I cannot help but recall the powerful words of Pope John Paul II that echoed throughout Downsview Park on July 27, 2002, during the great prayer vigil of World Youth Day:
"The new millennium opened with two contrasting scenarios: One, the sight of multitudes of pilgrims coming to Rome during the Great Jubilee to pass through the Holy Door which is Christ, our Saviour and Redeemer; and the other, the terrible terrorist attack on New York, an image that is a sort of icon of a world in which hostility and hatred seem to prevail."
The late Pope continued: "The question that arises is dramatic: On what foundations must we build the new historical era that is emerging from the great transformations of the twentieth century? Is it enough to rely on the technological revolution now taking place, which seems to respond only to criteria of productivity and efficiency, without reference to the individual's spiritual dimension or to any universally shared ethical values?"
Over the past three weeks, Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for an immediate ceasefire in the Middle East, saying nothing could justify the shedding of so much innocent blood.
Benedict has said very clearly that what is needed in the Mideast is a just solution for the three major parties, Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian people.
On July 30, the pope said: "These facts clearly demonstrate that it is not possible to re-establish justice, create a new order and build real peace when there is recourse to... violence. More than ever, we see how much the Church's voice is at once prophetic and realistic when, in the face of war and conflicts of all kinds, she indicates the path of truth, justice, love and freedom. This is the path that humanity today must also follow in order to achieve the desired good of real peace."