LINCOLN/VATICAN CITY (SNR/CNA/EWTN) - Bishop James Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln encouraged all Catholics in the Diocese to fast and pray for peace in the world Sept. 6 and 7.
The bishop invites Catholics to Eucharistic Adoration at the Cathedral of the Risen Christ in Lincoln from 12 to 3 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6. The period of Adoration will conclude with Solemn Benediction.
Catholics are also encouraged to pray for peace with their families and in their parishes Saturday, Sept. 7, as part of a global initiative announced by Pope Francis Sept. 1.
Departing from his typical reflections on the Sunday gospel, Pope Francis used his weekly Angelus audience to call for peace throughout the world, particularly in conflict-ridden Syria.
"I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me," he said to the crowds in St. Peter’s Square on Sept. 1.
"There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming," continued the Pope.
"For this reason, brothers and sisters, I have decided to call for a vigil for the whole Church," he announced.
It will be "a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, in the Middle East, and throughout world."
The vigil will take place on Sept. 7, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace. Those who can will gather in St. Peter’s Square from 7 p.m. until midnight: other local Churches are requested to join in the fasting and prayer by gathering together.
Pope Francis extended his invitation to "fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in whatever way they can, in this initiative."
"Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace!" said the Pope.
Bishop Conley agreed.
"Our prayers make a difference," he said. "They effect real change. The situation in Syria and the Middle East is dire. Real people are suffering. The most effective thing we can do is offer spiritual sacrifices in union with Christ on the cross."
The Pope went on to lament the use of arms and its negative impact on civilians, the unarmed, and children, particularly recently in the "martyred country" of Syria.
"With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict," he said.
Pope Francis also asked the international community "to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay."
He rejected the use of chemical weapons and requested that humanitarian workers "be granted access so as to provide the necessary aid."
The Holy Father continued his insistent appeal for peace: "it is neither a culture of confrontation nor a culture of conflict which builds harmony within and between peoples, but rather a culture of encounter and a culture of dialogue; this is the only way to peace."
Noting Mary’s universal motherly concern, Pope Francis said, "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!"
Bishop Conley expressed hope that Catholics and all Christians would demonstrate that love is the best response to violence.
"Our prayers are an act of charity," he said, "a work of mercy for the suffering. May God’s grace be a source of relief and consolation to the suffering people of the Middle East."