THE POPE CONVOKES A DAY OF PRAYER AND PENANCE
FOR PEACE IN THE MIDDLE EAST
Vatican City, 1 September 2013 (VIS) – Pope Francis has launched a
heartfelt appeal for peace in Syria, expressing his pain and concern
regarding the conflict and asking the concerned parties and the
international community to embark on the path of negotiation, setting
aside partisan interests.
“Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make 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 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 is inescapable! Never has the use of
violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets
“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.
“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
“On 7 September, in Saint Peter’s Square, here, from 7 p.m. until 12
a.m. 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!”