Pope Francis renewed his appeal for peace in Syria and throughout the world on Wednesday, once again inviting Christians of every denomination, believers of every religious tradition and all people of good will to take part in the worldwide fast and vigil of prayer and penance for peace, which he has called for September 7th, the vigil of the Feast of the Nativity of Our Lady, whom we venerate as Queen of Peace. First announced at the Sunday Angelus at the start of the week, many local Churches have already organized their own initiatives to mark the day. The Holy Father especially urged the faithful of Rome and pilgrims to the city to participate in the prayer vigil to be held in St. Peter's Square starting at 7 PM Rome Time and continuing until midnight. The Holy Father concluded, “May a powerful cry for peace go up from every land!”
You can listen to Vatican Radio report HERE
“May the cry for peace rise loudly throughout the earth!” Pope Francis repeated this call to the many faithful in St Peter's Square on Wednesday morning, 4 September, at the first General Audience following the summer break. At the end of the meeting the Pope renewed his invitation to live intensely this special day of prayer and fasting scheduled from 7pm to 11pm in St Peter's Square. It is a call to “Christian brothers and sisters, to brothers and sisters of other religions and to the men and women of good will who will be joining us at this event in the places and ways that are proper to them” and one which believers and non-believers around the world are heeding. The various groups and individuals at the General Audience also demonstrated their enthusiasm for the Pope's appeal for peace.
Letter from the Grand Mufti of Damascus to the Pope: "Let us work together for peace"
In St. Peter's Square or in the great Umayyad Mosque in Damascus, the Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou , spiritual leader of Sunni Islam, welcomes the Pope's appeal and will be there praying and fasting for peace in his country. The Mufti sent, through the Apostolic Nunciature in Damascus, an official letter to Pope Francis and is preparing to participate in the special pro-Syria day on September 7, proposing to the Holy See to organize an interfaith meeting.
In the text of the letter, sent to Fides Agency, the mufti defines Pope Francis' appeal "son of the heavenly laws", praising the initiative to "pray for peace in Syria" as "good and for the good of humanity"."His Holiness - the text reads – we thank you for this appeal of great humanity, based on faith, to fast and pray together God Almighty in order to bring peace on earth and protect us from the power of evil and oppression". Words which, according to the mufti, are in contrast "with all those who hide the shining light of faith, charity, mercy, and peace, that you ask and we all ask, as also the Prophets and Messengers of God asked".
Showing "profound gratitude for his spiritual attention" the mufti expressed the desire to "be with the Pope at the moment when the prayer will be raised to God Almighty", and states: "We will be together on September 7, to raise our plea to God", proposing to the Holy See to "organize a spiritual summit with religious leaders in Damascus or in the Vatican: so maybe we can stop the fire of those who want to destroy the land of Abraham, Moses, Jesus, Muhammad"." Let us remain, hand in hand - the letter continues - in spreading peace and security for all peoples of the world, to counter the extremists and divisions on the basis of religion or ethnicity. We continue our journey in the footsteps of the Prophets, Saints, the righteous and the men of good will".
"May you remain, Your Holiness - concludes the text sent to Fides - under the protection, guidance and Providence of God, so together we reach the fullness of faith and light".
Syrian Christians say Western attack could make things worse
Although President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron are consulting their own legislatures before using force in Syria, there's a constituency with far more at stake they might also poll that would likely deliver a resounding no: Syria's Christians.
Those Christians may be no fans of the regime of President Bashar Assad, but they generally prefer it to what they see as the likely alternative -- rising Islamic fundamentalism and Iraq-style chaos, in which religious minorities such as themselves would be among the primary victims.
"We heard a lot about democracy and freedom from the U.S. in Iraq, and we see now the results -- how the country came to be destroyed," said Chaldean Catholic Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo in a recent interview. "The first to lose were the Christians of Iraq."
"We must say that, what the U.S. did in Iraq, we don't want repeated in Syria," Audo said.
Continue reading John L Allen's piece HERE.
A letter from Trappist nuns in Syria: “Blood fills our streets, our eyes, our hearts”
In March 2005 a small group of nuns from the Cistercian Monastery of Valserena in Tuscany moved to Aleppo, Syria, to found a new monastic community there. The nuns were inspired to take up the legacy of seven monks who were martyred in 1997 in Tibhirine, Algeria. The sisters wanted to follow the example set by these men, who had totally dedicated their lives to God and to their beloved Algerian neighbors, both Christian and Muslim.
Once they had settled in Aleppo, with the blessing of both the Latin Apostolic Vicar and the Maronite bishop of Tartous, the sisters gained a new awareness of the importance of helping Christian Arabs remain in the Middle East, as well as a respect for the diversity of their traditions. Their project was, and continues to be, establishing a permanent monastery on the land they bought near the Syrian border with Lebanon, in a Maronite village named Azeir, atop a hill, far from the big cities. The monastery is at the service of isolated Christian communities, in a land which is predominantly Muslim but which is home to the most ancient of Christian traditions.
To the sisters, Syria represents the meeting place of East and West, the place where Christianity began and then spread to Asia Minor, Greece, Rome, and then Armenia and India—all the way to China, with saints such as such as Afraate, Ephraim, Cyrus, Simeon Protostilite, Maron, Isaac of Niniveh, and others who followed in their footsteps, such as John Chrysostom and John Damascene.
It is this tradition the sisters wish to honor and perpetuate, persevering in their mission despite the fear and the hardship: to keep the monastery going and provide those who desire it with a chance to spend a few days there, with a church to go to.
These nuns have been providing a much-needed independent perspective on the tumultuous events going on inside Syria, in eye-witness reports published on their website and in the Italian bishops’ newspaper, Avvenire.
Here is a translation of a letter written on the 29th of August, in which the sisters seem to be holding their breath as President Obama deliberated about what, if any, action would be taken in Syria by the United States.