The last time a pope asked for fasting for peace on Ash Wednesday was in 2003, when St. John Paul II prayed for an end to violence in the Middle East.
When Pope Francis called for fasting for peace on Ash Wednesday, he wasn’t the first pope to initiate such a request. The last time Lenten fasting was directed towards a similar intention was in 2003, in response to rising violence in the Middle East.
St. John Paul II reminded the world in his general audience that everyone is responsible for peace.
As we enter the Lenten season, we need to be aware of today’s international situation, troubled by the tensions and threats of war. It is necessary that everyone consciously assume responsibility and engage in a common effort to spare humanity another tragic conflict. This is why I wanted this Ash Wednesday to be a Day of Prayer and Fastingto implore peace for the world. We must ask God, first of all, for conversion of heart, for it is in the heart that every form of evil, every impulse to sin is rooted; we must pray and fast for the peaceful coexistence of peoples and nations.
Not only did St. John Paul II hope that this day of prayer and fasting would calm down tensions in the world, but also result in concrete acts of reconciliation.
May this day of prayer and fasting for peace with which we begin Lent be translated into concrete acts of reconciliation. From the family circle to the international realm, may each person feel and be co-responsible for building peace. Then the God of peace who examines the intentions of hearts and calls his children to be peacemakers (cf. Mt 5:9) will not fail to reward us (cf. Mt 6:4,18).
He also firmly believed that there is always time for dialogue, trusting that both sides of a conflict can come together and resolve their differences in a non-violent way.
This year Ash Wednesday is also a day of prayer and fasting to implore peace for the world. I believe that when peace is at stake, it is never too late for dialogue. For this reason, I asked for the prayer and fasting.
Let us remember that we are all responsible for peace in the world, and that our own actions of prayer and fasting can help bring peace to the nations, through the mercy of God.