As we have all seen and heard in recent weeks, the many reports and scenes of war and violence,
especially in the Middle East, have filled the news. At this writing, the war between Israel and
Hamas rages on. Ceasefire agreements have born little fruit in regards to peace. Civilian
casualties, especially in Gaza, have been great.
We hear of the great religious persecutions of Christians in Mosul in Iraq and Aleppo in Syria, a
place where Christians in the Syro-Catholic and Chaldean Churches have been living for two
thousand years since the beginning of Christianity. The Islamic State extremist group (ISIS) has
given the Christians an ultimatum – convert to Islam and pay a tax or face death. The violence
continues in eastern Ukraine between the Ukrainians and the Pro-Russian separatists, a conflict
that has claimed at least 1,129 civilian casualties, according to a United Nations estimate. The
violence in Nigeria continues where the jihadists of Boko Haram kill indiscriminately, Muslims
and Christians alike. And the list of serious problem areas goes on.
One may easily want to ask the question, “Will there ever be peace in the world?” It is question
that may not have an answer. But we can be certain that violence cannot be overcome with
violence. History has proven this time and time again. Peace will only happen when leaders on
both sides of the conflict truly desire peace and have the courage to come together seeking it.
Any peacemaking process is very difficult, but it is essential in building a just and lasting peace,
leading to a civil society, no matter where the conflict might be in the world. What can we do?
How can you and I participate in any peacemaking process?
Pope Francis has pleaded with political leaders “not to spare prayer or any effort to end every
hostility and seek the desired peace for the good of all.” He prayed, “May the God of peace arouse
in all an authentic desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence cannot be overcome with
violence. Violence is overcome with peace!”
The tragic situations mentioned above and others demand our prayer in solidarity with our
brothers and sister who are facing these horrendous situations around the world. They also demand our prayers for the conversion of the hearts of those who desire to perpetrate violence
and destroy human life.
I would ask our Catholic community, and all others concerned about these situations, to pray for
peace and to support diplomatic efforts aimed at dialogue and reconciliation. This can be done in
personal prayers and in the Prayers of the Faithful at Mass. But all of us must take an active part
in praying for peace. It is a small way in which we can participate in building just, peaceful and
civil societies around the world.
We should never underestimate the power of prayer. It is Christ’s peace for which we are asking.
“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give it to you. Do
not let your hearts be troubled or afraid.” [John 14:27] As the Body of Christ, through prayer,
together we might help open our world to God’s gift of peace.
One of the great miracles involving prayer in the midst of conflict was the miracle that took
place at the Battle of Lepanto on October 7, 1571, between the Christians and the Muslims.
During the time of this battle, Pope Pius V, accompanied by many faithful, prayed the Rosary in
the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore. Throughout the whole day, prayers continued in Rome as
the battle continued. When it was all over, the Christians had soundly won the battle. Of some
270 Muslim ships, at least 200 were destroyed. The Turks also lost 30,000 men while Christian
casualties numbered between 4,000 and 5,000.
Perhaps we can all seek the assistance of Our Lady, Queen of Peace, praying that, through her
intercession, world leaders may find a peaceful resolution to these conflicts in our world. I
believe a daily Rosary for peace could have a great impact in bringing it about in our world
today. Prayer in numbers for what Christ desires always brings about results. Christ desires peace
in our world. He came to bring peace to a sinful world. Let us all pray for it. We cannot be
indifferent, but are called to stand in solidarity with our suffering brothers and sisters.
In light of this, I would ask all pastors to encourage their parishioners to fast and pray for peace
in our world, to include petitions for peace in their Prayers of the Faithful at Mass, and to
celebrate a weekday Mass for peace weekly if possible. The suggested Mass setting could be For
Persecuted Christians, For the Preservation of Peace and Justice or In Time of War or Civil
Disturbance, all found in the New Roman Missal. This would be a beginning in praying for
peace in our world.
The Church has always empathized with the peoples’ suffering and has sought to defend human
rights and religious freedom around the world. It is who we are as a Catholic Church. Let us
continue to be who we are called to be so that our prayers might provide hope for those who live
“Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God.” [Mt 5:9]