WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops urged the United States and Iran to "embrace peace rather than violence" in the wake of escalating tensions between the two countries.

"May the Lord help all parties in this time of growing belligerence to peer through one another's transgressions and appreciate the legitimate fears that lie behind them," said the Jan. 8 statement from Archbishop Jose H. Gomez of Los Angeles. He was joined in the statement by Bishop David J. Malloy of Rockford, Illinois, chairman of the bishops' Committee on International Justice and Peace.

Noting that the bishops have addressed Middle East peace issues regularly, "we urge once again that all parties, in these critical days, embrace peace rather than violence. Peace has been all too elusive," Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said.

"We have called for necessary diplomacy, courageous dialogue and tireless efforts toward peace to resolve such global conflicts," they added. "We do so now, and we will do so always."

Tensions heightened first with a siege of the U.S. Embassy in Iraq by protesters Dec. 31-Jan. 1, followed by a U.S. drone strike Jan. 3 that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani. The Iranian government retaliated for Soleimani's killing with missile attacks on Iraqi bases Jan. 7.

"All (parties) must discover islands of trust in a sea of distrust, do the hard work of reasoning together, acknowledge the futility of further violence and military action, and humbly pursue the common good together," Archbishop Gomez and Bishop Malloy said.

"Let us reflect on Pope Francis' World Day of Peace message for 2020 and pray 'to overcome evil with good and respond to hatred with love,'" they added.

"We join in the hope expressed today that the people of Iran share in the promise of a great future, and that the United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it. In this spirit, we fervently believe, hope, work for, and indeed anticipate, days of peace ahead," the bishops said.