Monday, September 02, 2013

The Pope's anguished plea for peace

Yesterday's Angelus in St. Peter's Square brought us a very different picture of Pope Francis. Instead of the jovial pastor among his flock, he was serious, even grave in demeanor. "I make my own the cry [you could also translate it "scream"] which rises up with increasing anguish: it is the cry for peace." (Read the full text Pope Francis' appeal for peace on the Vatican Radio site.)
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.
The Pope, of course, is not the only Catholic concerned with peace in Syria. From Syria itself, from a Trappist convent in Aleppo, comes another strongly worded appeal:
You see the beauty of these hills, the smile on people’s faces…. And then you remember that they have decided to bomb us tomorrow. … Just like that. Because “it’s time to do something,” as it is worded in the statements of the important men…. 
Will they make us breathe the toxic gases of the depots they hit, tomorrow, so as to punish us for the gases we have already breathed in?
The people are straining their eyes and ears in front of the television: all they’re waiting for is a word from Obama! 
A word from Obama? Will the Nobel Peace Prize winner drop his sentence of war onto us? Despite all justice, all common sense, all mercy, all humility, all wisdom?

It does appear as if the "important men" have lost their minds, contemplating a new war when we have already had a millennium's worth of wars in just 13 years. (It does occur to me that perhaps the Nobel Peace Prize has lost its usefulness.)

The Pope asks all Catholics, all Christians, all religious believers and people of good will to join in a day of intense prayer and fasting for peace (Sept. 7). That evening there will be a nighttime vigil in St. Peter's Square as well.

Our "General Chapter" community here in Rome started a Rosary Novena for peace last night, to end on the day the US Congress is set  to vote on the question of whether or not to initiate military action (i.e. start yet another war) in Syria. We'll also accept the Pope's proposal to observe Saturday as a day of fasting for peace. (It was already planned into our calendar as a day of prayer.)

What about you? Can you think of ways to invite people with no religious convictions to join with us in fasting in an act of solidarity that is the opposite of war (as well as solidarity in the experience of those whose lives and livelihoods have already made the search for "daily bread" a daily challenge)? What do you propose as a way to invite non-Catholics and non-believing people to accept the Pope's recommendation?

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