By Sarah Mac Donald - 07 September, 2013
The Primate of All Ireland also called for fasting and prayers for a speedy end to the “appalling conflict” in Syria and for the delivery of humanitarian aid to those most in need as soon as possible.
In a statement, the Cardinal said the “overwhelming suffering” inflicted on families and communities in Syria could not be allowed to continue. He said his message was a response to Pope Francis’ call “to raise our voices ‘so the sound of weapons stops’.”
“The latest devastating images of death and destruction from the conflict in Syria powerfully illustrate the futility of what Pope Francis has described as ‘increasing violence in a war between brothers’,” he said.
He added, “This violence offers no hope for the future. Its consequences are evident in the deserted streets lined with empty shells of buildings which should be full of human life.”
The Cardinal urged people to remember those who have been made refugees or have been separated from their families by the 29-month old conflict, the death toll of which now stands over 110,000.
As many as seven million Syrians are believed to have fled abroad or been forced from their homes since the conflict began in March 2011.
“The millions of Syrians who have been displaced from their homes, who grieve the loss of their loved ones and fear for their future, desperately need our support and prayers at this time.”
He said the conflict was a tragedy not only for Syria but for the whole world, and suggested that the international community had “a vital role to play in protecting innocent civilians from violent attacks, particularly those which involve the use of chemical weapons deemed wholly unethical and unacceptable.”
The Primate’s comments were made as a meeting of the G20 leaders in St Petersburg ended without agreement on military action on Syria, with the US and Russia still at odds over the need for a UN resolution in response to the chemical attack in Damascus in August.
One of the suggested prayers of intercession for Syria prays “for all who are refugees from their own country or separated from their families because of war especially the displaced people of Syria: that they will know our love and support for them by our practical help and assistance.”
Prayer vigils will be held in a number of church venues in Ireland today in response to Pope Francis’ invitation to the faithful to pray and fast in solidarity with the people of Syria and to highlight the need for a peaceful resolution.
The Dominican Community and people in the Black Abbey in Kilkenny will join in union with those gathering in St Peter’s Square by holding an evening of adoration, prayer, fasting and vigil, beginning at 6pm.
A vigil Mass will begin at 6.10pm after which a liturgy for peace will be held. The evening will conclude at 11pm coinciding with the close of the vigil in Rome.
Separately, up to 2,000 Dublin pilgrims, accompanied by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, will join in these prayers for peace at a Mass in Lourdes this weekend.
Seven planes left Dublin airport at 6am this morning carrying sick pilgrims, doctors, nurses and volunteer helpers for the largest pilgrimage in the country.
Nearly 140 secondary school students from 23 different schools around Dublin, along with their teachers are also taking part.
Pilgrimage director, Fr Martin Noone, said the 2,000 pilgrims would be bringing their prayers for those affected by the conflict in Syria to the welcoming Mass in St Bernadette’s Church in the French shrine on Saturday evening.
“We fervently hope that dialogue, peace and reconciliation will triumph in Syria over scenes of desperation and destruction,” he said.