|On Saturday, 100,000 people took part in the prayer vigil in Rome, making it one of the largest rallies in the West for peace in Syria since proposed military action last week. (James Stapleton/Jesuit Refugee Service)|
|"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. Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation — these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!" ~ Pope Francis|
(Vatican City) September 9, 2013 – Tens of thousands of people answered the call by Pope Francis for a cry for peace in Syria on Saturday, a call which was echoed by Christians and non-Christians alike in vigils around the world.
According to the Vatican, 100,000 people took part in the Rome event in St. Peter's Square, making it one of the largest rallies in the West for peace in Syria since proposed military action last week.
Pope Francis spent most of the five-hour vigil in silence, but when he spoke he emphasized the futility and danger of war, the duties of men, and the need for governments to map out a pathway to a negotiated, non-violent solution in Syria.
During his speech the Holy Father issued a plea for peace, condemning those who are "captivated by the idols of dominion and power" which then opens the door "to violence, indifference, and conflict."
"Violence and war lead only to death, they speak of death! Violence and war are the language of death! ... War always marks the failure of peace, it is always a defeat for humanity."
Jesuit Refugee Service International Director Fr. Peter Balleis S.J., reiterated this call for an end to the cycle of violence.
"We are extremely happy the Pope has continued to stress that the only solution to the crisis in Syria is a peaceful encounter. We hope this message will have some effect over those who believe war and violence have any role to play in building peace," said Fr. Balleis.
"We hope the world will begin to hear the voices of the silent majority who have long since been saying no to war," he added.
In responding to the question of what can be done, the Pope clearly stressed the role of all, the role of solidarity.
"We too are asked this question, it would be good for us to ask ourselves as well: Am I really my brother's keeper? Yes, you are your brother's keeper! To be human means to care for one another," the Pope said.
This solidarity can fulfill the ultimate goal of peace when the peoples of the world come together to urge their governments to act in non-violent ways.
"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. Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation — these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the world!"
Pope Francis encouraged those from every corner of the world to pray and work for reconciliation and to "walk the path of peace," especially stressing the role that leaders of nations have in doing so.
Since the end of the vigil the Vatican has acted on its calls for peace by summoning ambassadors for a briefing by the foreign minister of the Holy See this week. Pope Francis appealed directly to world powers at the Group of 20 meeting in Russia, urging them to abandon the "futile pursuit" of a military solution in Syria and work instead for a negotiated settlement.
See a gallery of photos of the vigil on the Jesuit Refugee Service Flickr page by clicking here.
Learn more about JRS in Syria and the Middle East