Day of Prayer and Fasting

Last Saturday, September 7, Pope Francis I  presided at a prayer vigil - held in St. Peter’s Square in Rome- for peace in Syria, in the entire Mideast region, and throughout the whole world. It was also a day of fasting. Many dioceses across Canada held special services last weekend.

The situation in Syria is worsening on a daily basis. The United Nations Refugee Agency estimates that 5,000 Syrians are fleeing their homes every day. Neighboring countries are providing shelter to an estimated 2 million refugees who have arrived with little more than the clothes on their backs. This places an overwhelming burden on the infrastructures, economies and societies of those host countries. It is also estimated that a further 4.2 million people are displaced inside Syria. This means that more than 6 million Syrians – more than from any other country - are forcibly displaced from their homes.

Pope Francis has been strong in his appeal for peace in Syria and the Middle East. On September 5, the Holy See released a letter written by the Pope to Vladimir Putin, President of the Russian Federation and host of the G20 St. Petersburg Summit, in which he encouraged world leaders to work together to find  a peaceful solution to the conflict. He also called for proposals for peace in the area in his Angelus of Sunday, September 1.

We are all encouraged to be united with the Holy Father and all the Bishops in praying for peace in Syria, in the Middle East and in the entire world. In the words of Pope Francis at the prayer vigil for peace, My Christian faith urges me to look to the Cross. How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken. This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace!...  Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.”

We are also encouraged to make a financial contribution to the Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace, which is cooperating with Caritas International to help relieve the sufferings of the Syrian refugees.  As Pope Francis reminded us in his words at the prayer vigil, “It is exactly in this chaos that God asks man’s conscience: “Where is Abel your brother?” and Cain responds: “I do not know; am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4:9). We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! To be human means to care for one another!”