Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pope Francis pleads for peace and calls for action

Today in his Sunday Angelus address, Pope Francis declared this coming Saturday, 7 September, which is the Vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who, as the Holy Father noted, is the Queen of Peace (her Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, being the Prince of Peace), "a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the world." He invited "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 initiative."

I fervently urge all readers of Καθολικός διάκονος to participate fully, that is, to fast and to pray in an especially fervent manner from sundown on Friday, which is already a day of penance (offer your Friday sacrifices for this intention too!), to sundown on Saturday. I encourage you during this period to pray the rosary and/or the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. If you can, pray before the Blessed Sacrament. As we do so, let us bear in mind what we read in Sacred Scripture: "For our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens" (Eph 6:12).

So, let us use the weapons appropriate to our warfare- prayer, fasting, and alms-giving (give aid to humanitarian organizations who serve the refugees: Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association and Catholic Relief Services, to name just two). Our job is to overcome evil with good (Rom 12:19-21). As the Holy Father noted in his urgent plea, "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 will not see the light of the future!"

During the Crusades Brother Francis, who some sources indicate was a deacon (we know he was never ordained a priest), traveled to Egypt and Palestine. In Egypt he met with the Sultan Kameel in order to bring an end to the fighting, as well as to testify to Jesus Christ before the sultan. Befitting his namesake, Pope Francis today pleaded for peace- for negotiations, a ceasefire, and not retaliation. He did this even as he vehemently condemned "the use of chemical weapons," noting "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 are inescapable!" He went on to plead-

A Syrian family flees the fighting
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.
Then Pope Francis said, "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." Let us respond with a fervent and heartfelt "Amen" by fasting and praying for peace in Syria and throughout the Middle East and providing aid for those in need.

Preparing for my weekly meeting with a man who is on the verge of becoming Catholic, I was reading a passage on the Church's catholicity from Introduction to the Christianity, which is a book-length reflection on the articles of the Apostles Creed, written by then-Professor Josef Ratzinger, which struck me as quite relevant to all of this: "In a world torn apart, [the Church] is to be a sign and means of unity; she is to bridge nations, races, and classes and unite them. How often she has failed in this, we know..." (346). Let's seize this opportunity to succeed!

As Pope Francis said in his Angelus address: "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!" Let's heed his call!

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