In a statement Archbishop Vincent Nichols, president of the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, has called on 'people of every faith' to take up Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting on 7 September for peace in Syria.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols said: “Pope Francis has asked that September 7 be kept as a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria. I hope that in response to the daily reports of violence and suffering caused by the conflict, people of every faith take up this prayer.
“As the crucial debate about Syria continues across many capitals, it is important that we do not lose sight of the fundamental imperative of bringing this bitter and catastrophic civil war to an end, by peaceful means, as soon as possible. This is the criterion against which all actions must be judged.
“The deaths, destruction, suffering and hardship inflicted on the people of Syria multiply day by day. Among the most grotesque and illegal acts are the uses of chemical weapons. This war must be brought to an end. This is the key and primary challenge facing international and regional leaders and the United Nations.
“The G20 Summit in St Petersburg later this week is surely a crucial opportunity for leaders of the key nations to strengthen their resolve and actions to bring the conflicting parties to negotiations. To allow this Summit to pass without a concerted effort towards this objective would be shameful.
“We reflect today upon the horrific accounts of human suffering and call upon a redoubling of efforts towards humanitarian assistance. We must respond effectively to this need. The fate of millions, Christians and Muslims alike, depends upon the effectiveness of our actions.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols spoke to the BBC Radio 4 'Sunday' Programme on 8 September to urge the international community to draw back from military intervention to address the civil war in Syria.
Questioning the exact purpose for military intervention, Archbishop Nichols said: "Nobody's suggesting inactivity. To suggest it is military action or nothing is misleading. What we need is genuine leadership that says 'the halting of this conflict is the most important thing facing the world and other issues have to be put to one side' so that Russia, France, Britain and the United States - the key players - have to act together and put differences aside. The fate of six million more people depends on this. It's not a simple question of military action or nothing." You can listen to the interview through the Catholic Bishops' Conference here
Vincenzo Paglia, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, released the following invitation and suggestion for the day of prayer and fasting:
"Dear friends, Pope Francis’ invitation to a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and in all nations affected by the tragedy of war calls to be accepted by all of us with great seriousness and commitment.
The images that have circulated worldwide and the continuing tragic news question our hearts, our minds, and our faith. I invite you, therefore, to accept the Pope’s proposal and to make in your own home a gesture of fasting and prayer.
Dear Parents, do not be afraid to propose an austere and minimal lunch to your children; it will be an opportunity to explain to them what is happening in the world and how these terrible things cannot leave us indifferent. Together with the harshness of the news, don’t forget to communicate the hope of peace offered by the risen Jesus, who has reconciled the world not with violent and vindictive acts but through the gift of Himself.
Don’t forget to invite the grandparents and the elderly to this meal composed of little food and many words; if anyone has experienced moments of war stories, let him or her tell about it means to live under the bombs and with uncertainty about tomorrow as well as the sense of their pray during days.
And you, children and young people, don’t complain if, on Saturday, there aren’t any big dishes on the table; but rather thank your parents for what they are in fact offering to you, and ask them for explanations and reasons of why it’s worth continuing to live in this land, too often marked by mourning and violence.
Together, at the table, pray! For families of Syria, for the children who die every day from hunger and hatred, for the governmental leaders who called to find peaceful and non-violent solutions.
Reciting a Psalm, reading a Gospel passage, praying a part of the Rosary, prayers freely expressed aloud, a simple hymn; every household can choose the best way to intercede or to place itself between of the mystery of the evil that marks our history and the God of peace who heals and saves it."
Prayer for Peace
O God of peace, who are peace itself
and whom a spirit of discord cannot grasp,
nor a violent mind receive,
grant that those who are one in heart
may persevere in what is good
and that those in conflict
may forget evil and so be healed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
St John Damascene, pray for us.
Prayer text from Roman Missal © 2010 ICEL
Who was St John?
St John Damascene or St John of Damascus
Priest and Doctor of the Church
Feast celebrated on 4 December
St John was born about 675 in Damascus (Syria) and died near Jerusalem about 749. He is understood to have followed his father as a Christian official in a Moslem government. Later he became a monk and later Priest at Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem, where he was renowned as a theologian and biblical commentator. He is remembered for his vigorous defence of the veneration of images against the iconoclasts, for his theological writings synthesising the thought of the Greek Fathers, and for his poetry and hymnody.