By Anne Marie Amacher
Last week Pope Francis called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world. The Holy Father led a vigil at the Vatican on Sept. 7 while Catholics gathered around the world, including in the Diocese of Davenport, to pray for peace.
Bishop Martin Amos asked parishes to offer the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice at weekday Masses on Sept. 7. All weekend Masses were to include an intercession for Syria.
He also recommended one of the Collects from the Mass for the Preservation of Peace and Justice for use at the close of the Prayer of the Faithful, whether on Saturday or on Sunday.
At St. John Vianney Parish in Bettendorf, more than 100 people attended a prayer service. Eleanor Kiel, director of liturgy and music, said she learned about the pope’s call for prayer Sept. 2. “We talked in the office about what we should do. It’s not too often that a pope does something like this.
“The situation is dire (in Syria) and there was such a strong call from the Holy Father that we felt compelled to do something. Prayer is the best way to change ourselves,” she said.
Because of such short notice the prayer service, which included music, began at 3:30 p.m. and led up to the regularly scheduled Saturday Mass at 4:30 p.m.
Announcements were made at daily Mass and emails were sent to parishioners whose email addresses were on file. “We did our best with limited time and notice,” she said.
St. John Vianney’s prayer service included a prayer for peace in Syria, songs, a reading, Gospel reading, intercessions, prayers and time for silent prayer.
Todd Richard, a St. John Vianney parishioner, attended the service with his wife and three children. “We wanted to be part of a community prayer service to bring peace — especially to the people in Syria. We prayed for our leaders today to come to a resolution to stop the violence.”
Ss. John & Paul Parish in Burlington opened its doors for prayer from 7 a.m. to midnight. A prayer service was held in St. John Church in Burlington following its 4:30 p.m. Mass Sept. 7.
Ss. Mary & Patrick Parish in West Burlington offered 24-hour adoration that began at 8 a.m. Sept. 6.
At St. Joseph Parish in DeWitt, a special Mass was held at 8 a.m. Sept. 7 to pray for peace in Syria. Approximately 75 people attend.
St. Mary Parish in Oskaloosa offered nocturnal adoration following 5 p.m. Mass on Sept. 6 that continued until 8 a.m. Sept. 7. Daily Mass was celebrated afterwards. Emails were sent to parishioners to encourage them to attend part or all of adoration and/or Mass. Between 35-50 parishioners participated.
Holy Family Parish in Davenport held a prayer service from 1-2 p.m. Sept. 7. Around 40 gathered for the event which began with a prayer for peace from the U.S. Conference for Catholic Bishops. The service also included prayer, quiet time, song and rosary.
St. Mary Parish in Solon provided a sheet with the litany for peace and prayer for peace in Syria in pews at weekend Masses. People recited the prayers before Mass and could take the prayers home.
Eagles’ Wings in Davenport hosted a prayer vigil at the retreat center Sept. 7 from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
Echoing the appeal of Pope Francis and Catholic prelates in Syria, two leaders of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) urged President Barack Obama to seek a political solution in Syria.
“We have heard the urgent calls of the successor of St. Peter, Pope Francis, and our suffering brother bishops of the venerable and ancient Christian communities of the Middle East. As one, they beg the international community not to resort to military intervention in Syria,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, president of the USCCB, and Bishop Richard Pates, chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace, in a letter released Sept. 4.
The letter affirmed the U.S. bishops’ prayers for the administration and acknowledged “that the situation in Syria is complex,” and that the bishops “appreciate the patience and restraint that your Administration has exercised to date.”
Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates affirmed President Obama’s decision to invite public dialogue and congressional review of possible military action, saying they wanted to contribute to that discussion in their capacity as pastors and teachers.
“We join you in your absolute condemnation of the use of chemical weapons in Syria,” they said. “These indiscriminate weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations. With you we mourn for the lives lost and grieve with the families of the deceased.”
The prelates said they remain concerned for the more than 100,000 Syrians who have died and the 6 million who remain refugees or are displaced within their country.
However, they said, both the pope and Syrian Catholic bishops have made clear “that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation and will have unintended negative consequences.”
The long-standing position of the USCCB is that Syria needs a political solution. “We ask the United States to work urgently and tirelessly with other governments to obtain a cease-fire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.”
A similar letter was sent to each member of the House of Representatives and the Senate on Sept. 5.