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Scott P. Richert

Pope Francis: Pray and Fast for Peace in Syria

By September 3, 2013

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In his Angelus address on Sunday, September 1, 2013, Pope Francis addressed a topic on the minds of many in this month of Our Lady of Sorrows: the continuing civil war in Syria, and the possibility of U.S. intervention. The translation prepared by Vatican Radio captures the Holy Father's sense of urgency:

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 [who] 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!

These are strong words, not chosen lightly, and they are clearly aimed at those who will be deciding in the coming days whether to rain bombs down upon a country with little hope that the ensuing devastation will end the fighting. "Peace," Pope Francis declared, "is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected." But "Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence."

Recent history bears out his words. As the United States prepared in the fall and winter of 2002 to invade Iraq, Pope John Paul II and the future Pope Benedict XVI, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, both spoke out strongly against the invasion. Their pleas, stressing the Church's just-war theory, were ignored by the Bush administration, and ten years after the invasion in March 2003, Iraq is a disaster. Over 90 percent of the Iraqi Christian population has fled the country, and many of those Iraqi Christians took refuge in Syria. Now, as an Islamic insurgency has torn the country apart, those Iraqi Christians are threatened once again, along with their Syrian Christian brothers.

This time, Pope Francis has backed the words of the Vicar of Christ with action, calling on Catholics worldwide to engage in a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria:

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 [1 P.M to 6 P.M. EDT], 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.

When Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Ratzinger opposed the Iraq War, many Catholics in the United States argued that their words were not clear, or that it did not matter what the pope said, because the decision to go to war is a "prudential judgment" (thus illustrating that they did not understand what the cardinal virtue of prudence is, and what a prudential judgment entails). As the U.S. Congress prepares to debate President Obama's request for authorization to bomb a country that presents no threat whatsoever to the United States, there can be no mistaking Pope Francis's message:

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!

More on Syria and the Church's Just-War Theory:

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September 3, 2013 at 7:44 pm
(1) Gordis57 says:

Thank you so much for your love and support of Papa Francis. I am going to participate by fasting and praying and watching the events in St. Peter’s square online come Saturday. I hope many will participate. May was all strom heaven with prayers.

September 3, 2013 at 9:11 pm
(2) Rob Henderson says:

I plan to participate from home in the fast on Sep 7

September 3, 2013 at 11:33 pm
(3) Edie says:

I, too, will participate in fasting and prayer on September 7. I will watch the proceedings on EWTN.

September 4, 2013 at 12:12 am
(4) Gus says:

I WILL fast and pray for peace in Syria…. The time on west coast is 10 am till 3 pm….. Lets ALL do this and may God Bless all humanity….

September 4, 2013 at 1:43 am
(5) Berna Babugura says:

I have already started praying for Syria and I will participate on 7th. Thank you Pope Francis for your spiritual leadership. All catholics should participate and defend life.


September 4, 2013 at 5:05 am
(6) Lionel (Paris) says:

Je n’apprécie pas du tout que les militaires français soient utilisés en tant que mercenaires de puissances étrangères et, par voie de conséquence, impliqués dans des conflits qui ne concernent pas la France !…
Nous n’avons de leçons à donner à personne et je ne serais pas étonné qu’aux prochaines élections municipales, le bellicisme injustifié de Hollande en Syrie n’entraine une défaite cuisante du parti socialiste, à plus forte raison que personne ne peut garantir avec certitude l’authenticité des preuves produites de “l’implication formelle du régime de Bachar el-Assad dans les attaques chimiques” (Iran French Radio 3 septembre 2013: “un nouveau document sur l’implication saoudo-américaine dans l’attaque chimique en Syrie”)
Je suis par conséquent partisan qu’il ne soit procédé à aucune intervention en Syrie ni dans tout autre pays qui ne nous menace pas.

I do not appreciate at all that the French military are used as mercenaries by foreign powers and, consequently, involved in conflicts that do not concern France! …
We have no lesson to give to anyone and I would not be surprised that in the next municipal elections, Hollande’s unjustified warmongering in Syria leads to a crushing defeat of the Socialist Party, all the more so since that no one can guarantee with certainty the authenticity of the evidences of any “formal involvement of Bashar al-Assad in chemical attacks” (Iran French Radio, on September 3, 2013: “a new document on the Saudi-American involvement in the chemical attack in Syria”)
I therefore advocate that it is not carried out any intervention in Syria nor in any other country that does not threaten us.

September 4, 2013 at 9:19 am
(7) cooolnewyorker says:

Oh no. One cannot witness and condemn genocide and do nothing. It’s complicity. We can no longer be “looking the other way” again. We cannot allow another holocaust.

This muslim holocaust should be stopped . Aborted. Right now. Fasting is not going to do it. USA and allies should not again be late like they were against the NAZI.. There should never be another Hitler. ENOUGH!!!

September 4, 2013 at 11:38 am
(8) Salvy says:

Don’t worry, Obama will save the world.

September 4, 2013 at 1:54 pm
(9) Ryan says:

America is anti Christian. Obama is satan. They have helped the islamic extremist in middle east to finish the Christians in Iraq, Libya, Egypt and now Syria. Its cursed country and its future is bleak.

September 4, 2013 at 1:57 pm
(10) Ryan says:

For oil and gas interest and to please Jews, Anti Christ America will even bomb the Vatican.

September 4, 2013 at 3:52 pm
(11) Lionel (Paris) says:

Le bellicisme injustifié de Hollande envers la Syrie:
Toute intervention contre le régime de Damas aggraverait la situation. Nous ne nous sommes que trop mêlés des affaires de ce pays.

Hollande’s unjustified warmongering towards Syria:
Any action against the regime in Damascus would worsen the situation. We have been already too much enough involved in the affairs of this country.

September 5, 2013 at 8:10 pm
(12) Boata says:

I am proud to be one of this site, it appear that a strong word emphasis from the Holy Father, urging Catholic sons and daughters to pray and fast that the civil war at Syria will not be happened. We Catholics sons and daughters of Kiribati (Legion of Mary, Bonriki, Pentekota Catholic Mission) will raised and stand side to side to participate for this occasion. May peace on Syria be demobilised.

September 6, 2013 at 1:07 pm
(13) Darrel Drumright says:

As a spiritual leader in the Native American ways, I will join the Catholic Pope in this most noble effort to bring peace to our suffering race.

September 6, 2013 at 5:34 pm
(14) Kevin says:

Ireland too will be one with Pope Francis, our Mother Mary Queen of Peace and you all here and everywhere.

May we all become true channels of peace.

God bless all.


September 6, 2013 at 5:49 pm
(15) Ellen says:

Thank You Pope Francis, I will be praying for sure on the 7th and fasting.

September 6, 2013 at 6:08 pm
(16) Lionel (Paris) says:

Me too, I will join you in prayer for sure on the 7th and fasting.
Thank you Holy Father for this compassionate initiative!

September 6, 2013 at 10:13 pm
(17) Anthony Hadeed says:

Thank you Pope Francis for your universal call to prayer and fasting for the beloved country of Syria, where the followers of Christ were first called Christians in Antioch. Even though I have my niece’s wedding to attend on September 7, I will be joining the fast and prayer from 1:00 to 6:00 PM EDT. Both of my parents were born in a small village in Syria near Homs where the civil war began two and a half years ago. I still have many relatives who live in this village of Amar, who are all Christian, and many of them cannot leave now because this war has reach such atrocious proportions. Mary, Queen of Peace, please pray for Syria, the Middle East, and indeed the whole world!

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