Pope Francis has called on Catholics around the world and “other Christian brethren,” “brethren of other religions,” and “men and women of good will” to join him in fasting and prayer this weekend. As the United States debates military strikes against Syria, the Holy Father pleads for peace.
As he did when going to the Sicilian island of Lampedusa in July, where refugees from the “Arab Spring” have been pouring in as they flee the violence and turmoil of their native lands, Pope Francis is speaking from the depths of his heart, expressing the pain of the Divine Heart, at what we are doing here. Those horrific images of children, women, and men suffering and dying from the effects of chemical weapons used in Syria have provoked a lively debate about what we can do to stop the horror. We can’t look away. And yet, what is the justice served by a military strike against Syria?
What are the lessons of that failed “Spring,” of interventions and non-interventions of the recent past? According to Church teaching on “just war,” military action must always be a last resort, not simply a “Hail Mary pass” hoping for a positive outcome.
In his appeal, Pope Francis said:
I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence.
The pope’s own “Hail Mary pass,” of course, is so much more than that, and involves actual Hail Marys — pleading prayers to our Blessed Mother, the Mother of God, who lived a mother’s worst pain and who walks with us in prayer as our immaculate model of doing God’s will in the midst of the world. The pope turns the world to focus on she who leads us straight to her Son, whose life, death, and Resurrection offer us the promise of eternal peace with Him. And the pope calls us to pray together this weekend as we remember the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace.
This weekend, in particular, Pope Francis asks:
Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!
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