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.“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?