The silence of the vigil in St Peter's Square is making a noise. And the day of prayer and fasting, that Pope Francis called for, may perhaps help to change the plans of those who, after having ignored the tragedy in Syria for two and half years, would now like to intervene: but with the well-founded and terrifying risk of extending a conflict that has already caused the death of more than 110,000 people, injured countless more, and displaced over six million, including evacuees and refugees.
The conflict in Syria is causing disasters, especially endangering the country’s minorities and distorting, by the use of violence, the true vocation of religions, whose followers have frequently in recent times voiced their desire for peace. That the danger is real is attested by what happened in the village of Maalula, a symbolic place, dear to Christians and Muslims alike, because a form of Aramaic is still spoken there that is very close to the language of Jesus.
Perhaps no initiative for peace by the Holy See in recent decades has so deeply impressed and touched the hearts of countless people around the world, regardless of their differences in religion or ideology. And it is an ongoing commitment, the Pope assured us after the Angelus. Thanking everyone and asking them to continue to pray “that the violence and devastation in Syria cease immediately”; he also asked us to pray for Lebanon, Iraq, Egypt and that the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians may move forward.
Prayer and fasting are the weapons indicated by Pope Francis to distance violence and war, prompting a consensus that seems to be growing between women and men of good will. It is possible to learn once again to walk the ways of peace, he said taking up a slogan launched by Paul VI: “or even better, I would like each one of us, from the least to the greatest, including those called to govern nations, to respond: ‘Yes, we want it!’”.
In his meditation after the Rosary prayed before the ancient image of Our Lady, Salus populi Romani , the Roman Pontiff cited only a few verses of Genesis, to show the contrast between the goodness of creation and human sin, and two passages of Paul VI, from his message for the day of peace and from his discourse to the United Nations to repeat, after two terrible world wars and in the face of a nuclear nightmare, his rejection of war.
“Let the arms fall from your hands,” Pope Montini implored the UN at the time, “Arms, and especially the terrible arms that modern science has provided you, engender bad dreams, feed evil sentiments... even before they cause any victims and ruins”. These evil dreams and sentiments the Pope again denounces and calls us urgently to avert for the good of all.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 20, 2019
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