“At this time, I would like to make my own the hope of peace of the children of Syria,” Pope Francis said on Sunday after praying the midday Angelus, lighting a candle from the window where he leads the prayer each week.
With his gesture, the Holy Father joined with an initiative of the international charitable foundation Aid to the Church in Need, officially kicking off their “Candles for Peace in Syria” Campaign.
“May these flames of hope dispel the darkness of war,” the pope exclaimed. “Let us pray and help Christians to remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation.”
“May the flame of hope also reach all those who are suffering in these days from conflicts and tensions in various other parts of the world, near and far,” he added.
Francis asked that “the prayer of the Church” might “help them feel the closeness of the faithful God” and might “touch every conscience for a sincere commitment for peace.”
He prayed for forgiveness for “those who make war, those who make weapons to destroy one another,” asking that the Lord “might convert their hearts.”
Francis then led the faithful in a Hail Mary for “peace in beloved Syria.”
Aid to the Church in Need is inviting everyone to light a candle as a symbol of peace, on behalf of the children of Syria.
In a statement, the charity noted that the candle lit by the Holy Father was decorated by craftsman from the Old City of Damascus, and “also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo.”
For more information on ACN’s work in Syria, and the “Candles for Peace in Syria” Campaign, see here.
Why ending the Syria conflict is so hard: Interview from the ground
Late last month, the Holy Father sent a letter to Franciscan Friars working in Syria, to express his and the Church’s closeness to what he calls a “martyred land.”
I wish to share in your sufferings and tell you that I am close to you and to the Christian communities which are so tried by the pain experienced in their faith in Christ Jesus.
Pope Francis reflected on the great suffering, poverty, and pain that Jesus experiences in the Syrian people. “It is Jesus! This is a mystery. It is our Christian mystery. In you and in the inhabitants of our beloved Syria, we see Jesus suffering.”
A song for the suffering Body of Christ
Pope Francis compared their sufferings to martyrdom, noting that Christians thus participate “in humanity’s salvation history.”
He said martyrdom advances the Kingdom of God and “sow Christians for the future.”
Calling them “the true glory of the Church and our hope,” the Holy Father said the witness of martyrs is “a warning not to get lost even in the midst of the storm.”
Not a few times the sea of life has a storm awaiting us, but out of the existential waves we receive an unexpected sign of salvation: Mary, the Mother of the Lord, looking in astonishment and silence at the innocent, crucified Son who fills life and salvation with meaning.
“M Stabat Mater” expresses Mary’s pain and sorrow through dance