POPE FRANCIS DECLARES
A DAY OF FASTING AND PRAYER FOR SYRIA

HOLY FATHER POPE FRANCIS DECLARES
A DAY OF FASTING AND PRAYER FOR SYRIA

[ Fr.Sunil De Silva - 07.09.2013 ]

Pope Francis called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world held on Saturday, September 7th, 2013.

The 76-year-old pope held up well throughout the four hours — lasting longer than many who by the vigil's 11 p.m. conclusion had already gone home. He thanked those who had stayed to the end for their company, and wished them a good night's sleep.

The peace vigil marked something of a novelty for the Vatican: Nothing of its kind has ever taken place in St. Peter's Square, though popes past have participated in daylong peace prayers in places like Assisi, known for its peace-loving native son and the pope's namesake, St. Francis.

But by the time the vigil got underway, the posters and flags had mainly disappeared as a more religious tone took over, with leaders from a variety of Christian and non-Christian denominations joining cardinals, politicians and ordinary folk for the evening of prayer, hymns and meditation.

In an address on Sept. 1, the pope also noted the significance of the day Catholics observe the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace. The Rev. Ron Will of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in St. Joseph added that the pope has asked people to gather in St. Peter’s Square in Rome for an extended period of prayer. He has asked all Catholics around the world to join in the prayer and fasting.

He invited everyone "including our non-Catholic Christian brothers, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative."

President Barack Obama has called for military strikes to punish the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad, which the U.S. blames for an Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus that reportedly killed more than 1,400 people, including children.

The pope said he condemned the use of chemical weapons "with utmost firmness," adding that "those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart."

"A judgment of God and also a judgment of history upon our actions are inescapable," he said.

But the pope insisted that "never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence."

Instead, Pope Francis called on all parties to "follow the path of encounter and negotiation and so overcome blind conflict."

The Syrian conflict has killed an estimated 110,000 people since it erupted in March 2011, and the United Nations estimates two million refugees have fled the country.

Thousands began gathering in St Peter's Square in the Vatican for the four-hour event, with smaller gatherings held in churches, mosques and synagogues around the globe.

The Holy Father lead a vigil in St. Peter's Square Sept. 7 from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. included a recital of the rosary, eucharistic adoration, scripture readings, a papal blessing and remarks by Pope Francis, according to Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

Syria’s leading Sunni Muslim cleric wants to join Pope Francis in a vigil of prayer for peace on September 7, the Fides news service reports.

The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, expressed a desire to travel to Rome and join the Pontiff in St. Peter’s Square during the Saturday-evening prayer vigil. The Islamic leader has inquired whether it would be feasible for him to attend. He has asked other Islamic leaders in Syria to “welcome the appeal to prayer for peace in Syria extended by the Pope to all religions.”

When he announced the initiative on Sunday, Francis urged Christians from other denominations, faithful from other religions and atheists to join in.

Chief Rabbi of Rome Riccardo Di Segni said the Jewish community was also "in harmony" with the Vatican.

In Lebanon, the vice president of the Shiite Higher Council, Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan, voiced support, as did Christian leaders across the Balkans and in Latin America.

The appeal has been particularly well received by Christian minorities in the Middle East, where often-divided leaders have been united in their concern about a possible spread of the Syrian conflicts.

Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, William Shomali told Tracey McClure “we took very seriously this wish of his Holiness. The Catholics of Jerusalem met at Gethsemane Church on Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m. for an hour of adoration. We invited all the Catholic community of Jerusalem, even the non-Catholic communities – some of them participated. This is the wish of the Holy Father also.”

On, September 7th, on the vigil of the birth of Mary. The Holy Father called for the Church to buck the tide of self-righteous indignation, fed by the wishful thinking that an act of war on the part of the United States, et al, would have any positive ramifications in Syria, and pray and fast for peace instead.

Holy Father Pope Francis addressing the faithful said :

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigor I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people.

May no effort be spared in guaranteeing humanitarian assistance to those wounded by this terrible conflict, in particular those forced to flee and the many refugees in nearby countries. May humanitarian workers, charged with the task of alleviating the sufferings of these people, be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid.

What can we do to make peace in the world? As Pope John said, it pertains to each individual to establish new relationships in human society under the mastery and guidance of justice and love (cf. John XXIII, Pacem in Terris, [11 April 1963]: AAS 55, [1963], 301-302).

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity!
I repeat forcefully: it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace.

May the plea for peace rise up and touch the heart of everyone so that they may lay down their weapons and let themselves be led by the desire for peace.

To this end, brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on 7 September next, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world. Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather to pray for this intention.

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace.

Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Millions of Catholics, non-catholics, almost all religions wunited with Pope Francis to pray and fast for World Peace, specially for Syria. !!

Chinese President Xi Jinping tried to dissuade Obama from military action during talks on Friday, telling him that Beijing expected countries to think twice before acting. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned against military action that did not have the approval of the U.N. Security Council.

Unable to win Security Council backing because of the opposition by veto-wielding Russia and China, Obama is seeking the support of the U.S. Congress instead.

EDITOR'S CHOICE