“Let the sounds of weapons cease! War always marks a defeat for humanity.” Severe words from Pope Francis during the vigil of Saturday, September 7th in Saint Peter’s Square, where he prayed for peace inSyria and throughout the world. In the days preceding the vigil there had already been much response from many parts of the world, also from Amman, Jordan, where Maria Voce had gone to represent the Focolare Movement.
A hundred thousand people prayed with Francesco for four hours of awesome silence. The quiet atmosphere of composure and recollection was interrupted only by the sound of prayer.
The Pope venerated the icon of the Salus Populi Romani, Mary Protectress of the Roman Peoples. Then the Rosary was recited by the crowd in a single voice. As the conversation with Mary unfolded, a sense of trust in the Mother of All and Queen of Peace filled everyone’s soul.
Amongst the crowd, just outside the barriers, a group of Muslims recited verses from the Koran. In an atmosphere of universality, everyone raised prayers to the one God.
The meditation offered by the Pope was very dense; his face concentrated and serious. He began with the Book of Genesis, speaking of God’s desire for harmony in Creation, and of the chaos that was unleashed by man through violence and dispute: “Where is your brother, Abel?” “The same question is asked of us, and it would also be good for us to ask ourselves: Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes, you are your brother’s keeper! Being a human being means caring for one another!” But when we break this harmony, “the brother to be cared for becomes an adversary whom I must fight and eliminate.”
“Still today we raise our hand against our brother.” “We have perfected our weapons, as our conscience fell asleep, we have sharpened our thinking to justify ourselves . . . Violence and war bring death only. They speak only death! Violence and war speak the language of death!”
“Can we get out of this spiral of sorrow and death?” the Pope asks. “Yes, it is possible for everyone!” And a loud applause confirmed his words. “I would like us to cry out from every corner of the world: Yes, it is possible for everyone! Indeed, I would like each one of us, from the smallest to the greatest, including those who have been called to govern the nations, to respond: Yes, we want it!”
Then he went on: “How I wish that all men and women of good will would look to the Cross if only for a moment! There, we can see God’s reply: violence is not answered with violence, death is not answered with the language of death. In the silence of the Cross, the uproar of weapons ceases and the language of reconciliation, forgiveness, dialogue, and peace is spoken.
Then the praying continued. Long silences followed by prayers and songs. A long period of silent adoration. Everyone was focused on the white host in the golden monstrance, focused on that God who appeared to be like the heart of the world in that moment.
On the next day, the 8th of September, during the Angelus he spoke again about peace “in this moment as we are so strongly praying” for it. He exhorted everyone to “say ‘no’ to fratricide and to the lies it makes use of, no to all forms of violence, no to weapons proliferation.” Then without hesitation he strongly added: “This war here, that war there – because there are wars everywhere – are they truly wars because of problems or because commerce, for selling the illegal selling of weapons?”
It’s time to say “no” to conflicts, to hatred, to violence towards our brothers and sisters. But to say this “no” “it’s necessary that each one of us strongly and courageously decides to renounce evil and its seductions, and choose good.”
“Let us carry on with prayer and works of peace” so that “the violence and devastation inSyriamay immediately cease, and we may work with renewed commitment for a just solution to conflict and fratricide. The search for peace is long. It requires patience and perseverance.”
By Victoria Gómez