Pope Francis: rebuild peace and harmony with encounter, not conflict
"This evening I ask the Lord that we as Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions, and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: violence and war are never the way to peace,â?< em> Pope Francis said as he kicked off a prayer vigil for peace in Syria.
Pope Francis decisively denounced all forms of violence, during Saturday's vigil for peace at St. Peter's Square. Nearly 100,000 people joined him during the four hour prayer service to Our Lady.
During his homily, Pope Francis spoke about the responsibility each individual has had since Creation to look after one another, the basis for peace and harmony.
"When man thinks only of himself, of his own interests and places himself in the center, when he permits himself to be captivated by the idols of dominion and power, when he puts himself in God's place, then all relationships are broken and everything is ruined; then the door opens to violence, indifference and conflict.â?
He used the example of the biblical story of Abel and Cain to explain that all humans must be each others keeper. He recalled how many times humanity failed, and war broke out as a result.
Pope Francis called on all people, but especially to world leaders, to "change directionâ? from violence and seek peace.
"Look upon your brotherâ??s sorrow and do not add to it, stay your hand, rebuild the harmony that has been shattered; and all this achieved not by conflict but by encounter!â?
The atmosphere was largely somber, and silence marked various parts of the four hour event.
In a symbolic gesture to the vigil's purpose, five couples made incense offerings before the icon of Our Lady during the Eucharistic Adoration. Each couple came from Syria, Egypt, the Holy Land, Russia, and the United States. Adding to the symbolism was the decision to allow altar servers from the North American College in Rome help out with the ceremony.
At the end of the Adoration, the Pope returned inside the Vatican, but the outcome of the prayer vigil was clear:
"Forgiveness, dialogue, reconciliation â?? these are the words of peace, in beloved Syria, in the Middle East, in all the worldâ?