On Saturday, September 7th, Pope Francis invited the world to pray for peace. His focus was on Syria, of course, but also included the Middle east and other places of conflict. The day of prayer and fasting ended with a four hour prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square. Among the estimated 100,00 participants, there was a delegation of Providence College students from the PC/ CEA Rome Study Abroad Program.
One PC student, Joseph Day (’15), was even interviewed by the international agency, Catholic News Service:
“A gathering called by the pope is also more potent than a locally-organized demonstration in a city center, said Joseph Day, a student from Rehoboth, Mass., studying in Rome.
The pope is “the leader of more than 1 billion Catholics who live in all nations, including those wanting to go to war. They will have an effect on people in those countries and I hope and think they will have an effect on politicians, too,” said Day, who was sporting a grey T-shirt emblazoned with “Pope Benedict XVI” on the back — a souvenir from the retired pope’s 2008 visit to the United States.
“Prayer is very powerful, it can do all things,” he said. If God is there when just two or three people gather together in his name, then having thousands in Rome and thousands more worldwide gathering in his name “will make a very effective prayer,” he said.
In his Homily, Pope Francis said that war is always a defeat for humanity. Instead, he urged the path of forgiveness, dialogue, and reconciliation.
“May the noise of weapons cease! War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity. Let the words of Pope Paul VI resound again: “No more one against the other, no more, never! … war never again, never again war!” (Address to the United Nations, 1965). “Peace expresses itself only in peace, a peace which is not separate from the demands of justice but which is fostered by personal sacrifice, clemency, mercy and love” (World Day of Peace Message, 1975). Brothers and Sisters, forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation – these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world! Let us pray this evening for reconciliation and peace, let us work for reconciliation and peace, and let us all become, in every place, men and women of reconciliation and peace! So may it be.” – Homily Sept. 7th.
Lauren Janik (’15) also attended the Vigil and offered these reflections :
“On Saturday, I joined Pope Francis, tens of thousands of people in St.
Peter’s Square, and hundreds of thousands around the would in praying for
peace, especially in Syria and the Middle East. The peace Pope Francis
spoke of is not a fluffy happy feeling that we hope will radiate from the
square. It is a concrete peace – one that must start in each of our hearts,
then in our families, then among those we interact with every day. Only
then can we expect to have peace in the world. The vigil stood as a
witness and testament to this peace, as well as another concrete way of
achieving it – through prayer. Pope Francis led us in asking Mary, Queen
of Peace, for her intercession and praying the Rosary. He gave an
address, and then joined in Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the Office of
Readings, and led Benediction.”
Zachary Keefe (’15) expressed his experience at the Vigil in this way:
“It was simply a wonderful occasion to hear the words of Pope Francis for peace in Syria. Gathered in St. Peter’s Square, you gained a sense of the power of prayer and assembly for a just cause. By the end of the Vigil, I left hoping that Syria heard our prayers and can resolve its civil war quickly and peacefully.”