Harrisburg Diocese urges a Saturday fast for Syrians

Pope Francis abandoned his prepared remarks Sunday to give an impassioned plea for peace in Syria.

It is a consistent theme from the Vatican as the U.S. continues to march towards a military engagement in Syria.

In recent speeches, tweets and remarks, Francis has called for a negotiated settlement in Syria but has also condemned the use of chemical weapons.

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on March 19. (The Associated Press)

Pope Francis waves to crowds as he arrives to his inauguration mass on March 19. (The Associated Press)

“War never again! Never again war!” he tweeted earlier this week.

Francis, whose namesake St. Francis of Assisi was known for his message of peace, is going a step further by proclaiming this Saturday a universal day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world. That day is the vigil of the feast of the Birth of Mary, Queen of Peace.

In the Diocese of Harrisburg, spokesman Joe Aponick said all Catholics are encouraged to observe a personal fast day on that day. The fast may take the form of simple meals or no food in between meals or refraining from meals.

Parishes are being asked to make provisions for opportunities of prayer and adoration as much as possible. This may include adoration or the recitation of the rosary prior to or after Masses on Saturday. This prayer of petition may also be used during Masses for the next several Sundays:

“For God’s gift of peace in Syria and throughout the world, may it be advanced by fasting, prayer and genuine international and individual efforts to bring an end to violence and war.”

The pope’s anti-war exhortation echoes those issued by popes past starting with Pope Pius XII in his 1951 Christmas radio message. Pope Paul VI uttered the same words at the United Nations in 1965 as the Vietnam War raged. Pope John Paul II repeated them in calls for peace in Bosnia and Iraq and Benedict XVI used the refrain during a 2011 peace meeting with religious leaders in the Umbrian hilltop town of Assisi.

John Paul took his anti-war initiative a step further when, on the eve of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, he sent a personal envoy to U.S. President George W. Bush to try to dissuade him from starting war.

Saturday’s public vigil will be something of a test to see if Francis’ immense popular appeal translates into solid popular support for his anti-war initiative.

Do you think his campaign will make a difference?

About John Hilton

I grew up in Susquehanna County, Pa. and graduated Syracuse University with a dual degree in journalism/political science in 1998. After working for nearly three years for a weekly paper in upstate New York, I came to southcentral Pennsylvania. I spent 13 years as a reporter and editor for The Sentinel in Carlisle and joined the York Daily Record as religion reporter in September 2011.
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One Response to Harrisburg Diocese urges a Saturday fast for Syrians

  1. Rev. J. Thomas Shelley says:

    Fasts throughout the year should carry the same three-fold character as the Lenten fast, which is coupled with prayer and almsgiving.

    I am glad to read that this Saturday fast is accompanied with a call to prayer; both the prayer and the fast would be stronger if combined with a call to almsgiving.

    The almsgiving most logically would be to donate the cost of the meal(s) foregone to refugee relief agency such as the Humanitarian Relief Aid Trust (HART)


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