Syria: Pope Francis lights candle for peace

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Syria: Pope Francis lights candle for peace

By Jim Fair/ zenit.org, asianews.it and Hannah Brockhaus/ CNA

Pope Francis on Sunday, December 2, 2018, lit a candle for peace in Syria after praying the noonday Angelus with the crowd of an estimated 20,000 faithful in St. Peter’s Square. In this action, he joined in the Christmas campaign of Aid to the Church in Need, which is calling on prayers worldwide for peace in the troubled nation.

“May these flames of hope disperse the darkness of war,” said Pope Francis as he joined an initiative by Aid to the Church in Need calling on the children of Syria and the world to light a candle at the beginning of Advent as "a sign of hope for children of Syria, battered by a war that has lasted for eight years."

Speaking to the faithful in St Peter's Square, after the Angelus prayer, the pontiff added: "Let us pray and help Christians remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness and reconciliation."

He added:“May this flame of hope and many little flames of hope, dispel the darkness of the war! Let us pray and help Christians to remain in Syria and in the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, of forgiveness and of reconciliation. May the flame of hope also reach all those who endure conflicts and tensions these days in other different parts of the world, close and distant. May the prayer of the Church help them to feel the closeness of the faithful God, and touch every conscience for a sincere commitment in favor of peace. And may God, our Lord, forgive those that make war, those that make arms to destroy one another and convert their heart. Let us pray for peace in beloved Syria.”

Advent is the season of hope. In this moment I wish to make my own the hope for peace of the children of Syria, of beloved Syria, martyred by a war that has lasted now for eight years,” Pope Francis said. “Therefore, adhering to the initiative of Aid to the Church in Need, I will light a candle together with many children who will do the same, Syrian children and many faithful in the world who light their candles today. [He lights the candle]

Speaking off the cuff, he pontiff invited the faithful to recite a Hail Mary together for our “beloved Syria". "May God our Lord forgive those who make war, who make weapons to destroy themselves; may the Lord convert their hearts”.

The Pope spoke about hope earlier, explaining the meaning of Advent, the liturgical season that begins today and prepares for Christmas. "During Advent,” he said, “we do not just live waiting for Christmas. We are also invited to awaken the wait for the glorious return of Christ, preparing ourselves for the final meeting with him with coherent and courageous choices.

"During these four weeks we are called to come out of a resigned and habitual way of life, nurturing hopes and dreams for a new future. The Gospel of this Sunday (cf. Lk 21: 25-28.34-36) goes precisely in that direction and warns us against letting ourselves be oppressed by a self-centred lifestyle and the convulsive pace of the days."

"Stay awake and pray: this is how one lives this period from today until Christmas. Inner sleep arises from always turning around ourselves and being stuck in the indoors of one's life with one’s problems, joys and pains. This is the root of the torpor and idleness the Gospel speaks of.

"Advent invites us to a vigilant commitment, looking outside of ourselves, broadening our mind and heart to open ourselves to our brothers' needs and the desire for a new world. This is the desire of so many peoples tormented by hunger, injustice and war; this is the desire of the poor, the weak, the abandoned. This time is right for opening our hearts, asking ourselves real questions about how and for whom we spend our lives."

"The second attitude to live well the time of waiting for the Lord is prayers . . . As we wait for Jesus, we want to wait for him in prayer, which is closely linked to vigilance. But if we think about Christmas as a worldly festival, of consumerism, Jesus will pass us by and we shall not see him."

Furthermore, "We Christians, who are also God's people, run the risk of becoming worldly, of losing our identity, or rather, of ‘paganising’ the Christian style."

Lastly, "May the Virgin Mary, a woman of waiting and prayer, help us strengthen our hope in the pledges of her Son Jesus, to make us experience, through the travail of history, that God always remains faithful and even uses human errors to show his mercy.”

“Candles for peace in Syria”

The candle Pope Francis lit is part of an initiative organized by the international Catholic charity, Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), called “Candles for peace in Syria.” The project included the participation of over 50,000 children of different religions from some of Syria’s most severely war-torn cities.

According to a press release from ACN International, “The children have prayed and painted pictures symbolizing peace on the sides of their candles: crosses, doves and messages of hope conveying to the world their longing for peace. For it is these little Syrian children who have so often been the first victims of the conflict, which is still ongoing.”

ACN has called for people to respond by lighting at home their own candles for peace in Syria and by considering giving to the organization’s fundraising campaign to provide emergency aid, and reconstruction and pastoral support to Christians in Syria.

Pope Francis lit the candle at the end of the Sunday Angelus, when he reminded those present of the beginning of Advent and the beginning of the Church’s preparation for the arrival of Jesus at Christmas.

“Advent,” he said, “invites us to a commitment of vigilant watching, looking outside ourselves, enlarging our mind and our heart to open ourselves to the needs of people, of brothers, and to the desire for a new world.”

“This time is appropriate to open our hearts, to ask ourselves concrete questions about how and for whom we spend our lives,” he said, noting the way in which Christmas is often be lost in consumerism, making it easy for Jesus to come into the world unnoticed.

So, he encouraged, “stay awake and pray: this is how you live this time from today until Christmas” to avoid an interior “sleepiness,” which comes from being stuck thinking only of one’s self and one’s own problems.

“This tiredness, this boredom, this closes [people] to hope,” the pope stated.

Sun, 12/02/2018 - 17:19
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