Speaking after the traditional noontime prayer, the pope thanked those who had joined in the Vigil of Prayer and Fasting Saturday evening and expressed his “gratitude to the civil authorities, as well as to the members of other Christian communities and of other religions, and to men and women of good will who have undertaken, on this occasion, periods of prayer, fasting and reflection.”
More specifically turning to the crisis in Syria, Francis continued: “I invite you to continue to pray so that the violence and devastation in Syria may cease immediately and that a renewed effort be undertaken to achieve a just solution to this fratricidal conflict.”
The pope also asked for prayers for other countries in the Middle East, particularly for stability in Lebanon, for an end to sectarian violence in Iraq, for the success of the peace process between the Israelis and Palestinians, and “that all Egyptians, Muslims and Christians, may commit themselves to build up together a society dedicated to the good of the whole population.”
On Saturday, the pope conducted a five-hour evening prayer vigil for Syria in St. Peter’s Square that was attended by an estimated 100,000 people. He had also asked that people around the world, whatever their religious convictions, make Saturday a day of fasting and prayer for peace. He said during the vigil:
This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!
May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity.
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