Pope Francis called upon Catholics and people of all faiths to join him September 7, 2013, in prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.
All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those of our brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs to all humanity.
This was the second time in his pontificate that Pope Francis called upon the universal Church to join him in a formal act of prayer.
This call is not only broad in the sense of going out to all people, but it is deep in that it gets at the true nature of the human person and society. The Holy Father knows that forgetfulness of God has led to greater violence, not only in Syria but also across the world, while the path to authentic peace on earth is found in the glorification of God. In other words, world peace will not come about merely by human efforts; it comes from a free participation in the love and action of God.
The Holy Father is connecting humanity’s need for God and resolution to its problems. Truth, justice, love and peace are not utopian ideals but are obtainable when rooted in the One who holds life in existence and who gives meaning to life. Moreover, when humanity ignores God, it is not only humanity’s relationship with God that suffers, but also our relationship with one another.
In spite of its technological advancements and achievements, humanity finds it ever more difficult to act justly and work for authentic peace. Instead of peace and tranquility, we find instead growing violence, aggression and fear. Just look at how the 4D ultrasound has exposed the lie that the unborn child is “just a blob of tissue.” But as we saw in the debates down in Texas this summer over a 20-week abortion ban, many are still screaming at the top of their lungs that the unborn is not human and that the “right” to murder them is guaranteed. Such violent and hate-filled demonstrations do not come from a people who know the peace of the Lord.
At the beginning of the 20th century there was a feeling of great expectation. Only 18 years after Nietzsche’s madman declared that God was dead, it seemed that many “enlightened” folks were ready to proceed as if this were truly the case. Yet the century saw two world wars, and the rise of the most murderous — and explicitly godless — totalitarian systems in all of human history.
Before these systems had fully exhausted their evil destruction, God — Who, it turns out, wasn’t dead after all — gave the world a leader who would articulate anew the Lord’s call to peace. In 1961 the Berlin Wall was erected, and in 1963 the Cuban Missile Crisis created a sense of imminent disaster. Amidst this great drama the Lord raised a successor of Saint Peter, Saint Pope John XXIII, to bring a message of hope and promise.
Contrary to the lurking shadows of despair in a world engaged in political and ideological conflicts, Pope John discerned that humanity was on the brink of change. This jovial, spirit-filled and faithful shepherd looked out into the world and prophetically offered a message that belonged to the entire human family.
Pope John recognized the conditions upon which authentic peace could be obtained: truth, justice, love and freedom. Truth will cultivate and build peace when every individual acknowledges not only his rights but also recognizes the source of these rights in his Creator. Justice will cultivate and build peace when everyone respects the rights of others and fulfills their duty toward them. Love will cultivate and build peace when everyone feels the needs of their brothers and sisters as their own and share what they have with them. Freedom will cultivate and build peace and make it vibrant when everyone acts according to right reason and assumes accountability for their own actions.
Pope John knew, as did every successor of Saint Peter, that this change will only occur when individuals and society seek the true source and summit of all good: God the Father. In humanity’s search for truth, justice, love and freedom, the Church serves as a guide and speaks to those issues as she has done in every age.
As with his predecessors, Pope Francis is calling all of us to recognize our need for God in our search for peace on earth. The distorted notions of freedom and peace promulgated today will never lead humanity to authentic peace but continually to dead ends. True peace begins in the human heart motivated by love for God and His law.
Joining in prayer and fasting with the Holy Father this weekend is one small way we can connect with this great tradition of the Church, in solidarity with brothers and sisters all over the world, hopefully bringing a swift end to violent conflict, oppression and the Culture of Death.