Faithful urged to raise voices for peace in Syria at shrine Mass

By Richard Szczepanowski
Catholic News Service

A woman kneels in prayer during a Mass for peace in Syria and the world Sept. 7 in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

A woman kneels in prayer during a Mass for peace in Syria and the world Sept. 7 in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

WASHINGTON (CNS) — As American policymakers debated military intervention in Syria, Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl joined Pope Francis and Catholics around the world in calling for peace and a just solution to the violence that has wracked the country and other parts of the world.

“Today we pray for those who are a part of our human family and who endure terrible acts of violence. We also invoke God’s blessings on those who strive to contain violence around the world,” Cardinal Wuerl said during a special Mass Sept. 7 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

“We ask God to give all of us the strength to walk in the light of God’s love and that we might be true agents of human solidarity, justice and true peace,” he said.

The Mass was one of dozens of liturgies and prayer services across the U.S. in response to Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world.

“As an expression of solidarity with all the victims who suffer, especially the children, particularly in Syria but throughout the Middle East, we raise our voices in supplication for peace and reconciliation,” Cardinal Wuerl said during his homily.

About 700 people packed the basilica’s Crypt Church for the Mass.

Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, apostolic nuncio to the United States, Cardinal William W. Baum, former archbishop of Washington, Washington Auxiliary Bishops Barry C. Knestout and Martin D. Holley, Msgr. Ronny Jenkins, general secretary of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and more than two dozen priests were among those at the Mass.

“We are all here together in answer to the appeal of our Holy Father,” Archbishop Vigano said at the outset of the Mass. Referring to “the dramatic situation in Syria and throughout the Middle East,” he said “the only way to peace is through dialog, not confrontation.”

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington delivers the homily during a Mass for peace in Syria and the world Sept. 7 in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. At right is Cardinal William W. Baum, retired archbishop of Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl of Washington delivers the homily during a Mass for peace in Syria and the world Sept. 7 in the Crypt Church at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. At right is Cardinal William W. Baum, retired archbishop of Washington. (CNS photo/Tyler Orsburn)

In his homily, Cardinal Wuerl also said that “peace is a precious gift that needs to be promoted and protected.”

“We must never allow the violence that exists in the world to wound our inner conviction that Christ is ‘the way, the truth and the life,'” the cardinal said. “The path he sets before us, to be peacemakers and to hunger and thirst for holiness, justice, mercy, is his way.”

The Mass was offered at the same time thousands attended a prayer vigil for peace led by the pope in St. Peter’s Square.

“In uniting our prayer with that of our brothers and sisters throughout the Catholic world, our prayer truly becomes universal and a sign of hope for the world,” Cardinal Wuerl told worshipers.

He added that “it is particularly appropriate and urgent that the church, as a voice of conscience in our nation and a moral force in civil society, should call us to pray … and as a victim of much violence and persecution herself, the church brings a unique testimony to the present circumstances.”

The Mass and the day of prayer and fasting was held as President Barack Obama seeks congressional approval for U.S. military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad. The administration said it believes the Assad government used chemical weapons against civilians Aug. 21, causing more than 1,400 deaths and that such action cannot go unpunished.

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