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Praying for peace on the tomb of Saint Francis

(Vatican Radio) Religious communities all over the world have welcomed and engaged in Pope Francis' call to pray and to fast for peace in Syria.

Amongst them the Franciscan Friars in Assisi who immediately, following the Pope's call for prayer and fasting on Sunday, have exceptionally opened the Lower Church of the Basilica of St. Francis in Assisi until 10 pm each evening to allow people to pray on the Tomb of St. Francis.

As Franciscan Conventual Friar Charles Baldacchino told Vatican Radio's Linda Bordoni, the Friars will also be joining in a special prayer vigil on Saturday 7th in communion with Pope Francis who has invited all men and women of goodwill to join him in a prayer for peace in St. Peter's Square.

Listen to the interview with Father Charles Baldacchino... RealAudioMP3

Father Charles explains that the initiative to keep the Lower Church of the Basilica of St. Francis open for prayer beyond its usual opening hours, was taken after the Pope's appeal on Sunday after the Angelus Prayer.

The Pope - he says - expressed himself in a very strong way about the tremendous situation in Syria, so the Friars, together with their director decided to keep the Tomb open after Vespers to give everyone the possibility of going there to pray.

He says he was there himself and described the situation as silent and prayerful, and very full of faithful. "There are some Scripture readings and some hymns and then at 10 the benediction"

Speaking of the Saturday prayer vigil at the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli just below the town of Assisi, which will be conducted by the Franciscan Minors, Father Charles says it was called for by the Bishop of Assisi Domenico Sorrentino.

Every Saturday - Father Charles says - "there is a sort of pilgrimage at Santa Maria degli Angeli with a small statue of Our Lady, and the Archbishop has asked that we all gather - that is priests, friars, monks, sisters and laypeople in a sort of a night vigil to pray and of course to fast. In fact on Saturday it happens that our novices are going to take their first vows in the morning, but it was decided it will equally be a day of fasting, it will be a day of prayer with the Pope and with all people of good will".

Father Charles also thinks back to all the Pope's who have come to Assisi to pray for peace, from Blessed John Paul II and then Pope Benedict XVI, who repeatedly turned to Assisi and to the message of St. Francis in moments of crisis, asking people to really live peace just as St. Francis did. "So, we should pray and believe in peace because this is what our Lord came to teach us and as his followers we should live it and make it true".