"Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace."
September 6, 2013 — Tomorrow, on a day when he has called for "fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world," Pope Francis will lead thousands in St. Peter's Square in a prayer vigil.
"We will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance, invoking God's great gift of peace upon the beloved nation of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world," the pope said Sept. 1, before praying the Angelus with the crowd gathered in the square. "Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace."
The pope invited everyone, "including our non-Catholic Christian brothers, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative."
On Aug. 31, President Barack Obama announced he would seek Congressional authorization for a strike on Syria. "I have decided that the United States should take military action against Syrian regime targets. … I’m confident we can hold the Assad regime accountable for their use of chemical weapons," he said in his speech at the White House Rose Garden.
Pope Francis said he condemned the use of chemical weapons "with utmost firmness," adding that "those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart."
"A judgment of God and also a judgment of history upon our actions are inescapable," he said.
But the pope insisted that "never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence."
On Sept. 4, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, Jesuit Father Adolfo Nicolás said, "We, Jesuits, support 100 percent the Holy Father and wish with all our hearts that the threatened attack on Syria does not take place."
During the interview about Syria
, Fr. Nicolás also stated, "I think that a military intervention like the one being planned is itself an abuse of power."
Fr. Nicolás said he was speaking out because "the Holy Father has taken a measure that is extraordinary to indicate the urgency of the moment. To indicate that the 7th of September is a day of fasting for the sake of peace is an extraordinary measure and we want to join him in it."
Jesuit Father Drew Christiansen, former editor of America magazine and a visiting scholar at Boston College, wrote in The Washington Post's On Faith blog that the pope’s invitation to the day of prayer is giving voice to humanity’s desire for peace. "He [the pope] is also inviting us to come to grips with our inability to bring about peace and to voice our exasperation at the intransigence of so many now blocking the way to peace."
According to Fr. Christiansen, "The turn to prayer at a juncture like this is not just a Catholic thing. It is a profound human need which others can share, because humanity is face to face with its own powerlessness to prevent the cruelest evils from being done." [Catholic News Service, The Washington Post, Jesuit Curia]