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Holy Land joins Pope Francis’ day of prayer for peace in Syria, Mideast

(Vatican Radio) On Saturday, Christians in the Holy Land will be observing the day called by Pope Francis for fasting and prayer for peace in Syria. The Catholic Ordinaries of the Holy Land together with the Latin Parish in Jerusalem have invited all Christians there to join in the observances to pray for peace in the Middle East, Syria and Egypt.

Auxiliary Bishop of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, William Shomali told Tracey McClure “we took very seriously this wish of his Holiness. The Catholics of Jerusalem will meet at Gethsemane Church on Saturday evening at 8:30 p.m. for an hour of adoration. We invited all the Catholic community of Jerusalem, even the non-Catholic communities – some of them will participate. This is the wish of the Holy Father also.”

Listen to the interview with Bishop Shomali: RealAudioMP3
The prayer vigil at the Basilica of Gethsemane will be followed by a candlelight procession in the Garden of Olives. The Crypt of the Armenian Catholic Church at the fourth station of the Via Dolorosa will also remain open for private and silent prayer from 7 pm until midnight Saturday in union with pilgrims gathered for the vigil in St. Peter’s square in Rome.

Though the “major event” will take place in Jerusalem, Bishop Shomali explains that priests in parishes across the diocese are planning their own spiritual activities and vigils. “for example in Ramallah, where we have one of our biggest parishes, the mass will be celebrated in the church of the Greek Catholics. Then the faithful will go to the Islamic club in Ramallah with candles in procession and Muslims will join them until they reach the Latin Catholic church. In this way, they are including with them non-Christians because prayer is not only for Catholics. It is for everyone.”

Bishop Shomali says churches in the Holy Land have prayed for peace in the past but this time, things are different, and special. “We prayed in the past for peace but not in this way, where we are united to all the Catholic churches in the world. So this unity and communion is something special and the emotional call done by his Holiness is also special. And the covering of the event in the local newspapers is also special. I give an example: in our daily newspaper Al-Quds – it’s not religious, it’s the national newspaper read by all Palestinians – two columns were reserved to publicize this event.”