five-hour prayer vigil in St. Peter's Square for peace in Syria, initiated by
Pope Francis and to be held this Saturday, will be the largest the Vatican has
seen in years, according to the Holy See’s press director.
“I’ve been here for 23 years and I remember gatherings for peace in Assisi, but I don’t remember anything with this dimension in Saint Peter’s Square,” Fr. Federico Lombardi told a gathering of journalists Sept. 5.
He recalled a peace gathering in Italy and prayer vigils held after the Sept. 11 attacks, but none were of the degree that this will be, he said.
Pope Francis made a global petition on Sept. 1 asking that everyone, regardless of religion or location, to
fast and pray during the whole day of Sept. 7 for world peace, particularly in Syria.
“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great
suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming,” the Holy Father said Sept. 1.
During his first public general audience since his summer break on Sept. 4, he renewed his invitation.
While the Sept. 7 fast is not binding on the faithful, Pope
Francis' repeated exhortations to participate in the fast indicate how close the issue is to the heart of the vicar of Christ.
His call for prayer and fasting comes as nations, including the United States, discuss the possibility
of military intervention in Syria, following reports that the Bashar al Assad regime used chemical weapons on its own civilians, killing, according to the U.S. government, more than 1,400 persons.
Pope Francis' prayer vigil will be preceded by the hearing of Confessions, beginning in the evening at 5:45 in St. Peter's Square. There will be 50 priests available for Confession under the
colonnades of the square.
Then at 6:30, Pope Francis' Sept. 1 allocution
calling for the day of fasting and prayer will be read to introduce the vigil.
Pope Francis will begin the prayer at 7:00, and the Veni Creator
Spiritus will be sung.
Four Swiss Guards will carry a statue of Mary,
Protectress of the Roman People, starting from the obelisk in the square, accompanied by two girls strewing flowers before her.
The Roman Pontiff will then begin praying the rosary, invoking the intercession at each mystery of Our Lady, Queen of Peace.
There will then be a meditation by the Pope,
followed by a minute of silence and Eucharistic Adoration.
The vigil will also include readings from the Bible, and responsorial prayers for peace.
After Adoration, there will be three minutes of silence followed
by the recitation of the Office of Readings, part of the Liturgy of the
At 10:15 there will be a period of extended, prayerful silence,
and the vigil will conclude later with Benediction.
In solidarity with the vigil of the Diocese of Rome, many Churches worldwide will be holding similar events.
The Archdiocese of Madrid announced that all Masses said
this Saturday will be offered for peace in Syria, and Bishop Demetrio Fernandez Gonzalez of Cordoba asked that church bells be rung at noon to remind Catholics
to pray the Angelus to Mary, Queen of Peace.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the Archbishop of New York, announced that the anticipated Mass at his cathedral on
Sept. 7 would be said for the intention of peace in Syria, and added that in his diocese “I wish all our Catholic people to abstain from meat this Friday (Sept. 6), and add this intention to their prayers at Sunday Mass.”
In the Archdiocese of Denver, a vigil of Adoration will be held at the cathedral on Sept. 7 from 7 p.m. until midnight.
"Brothers and sisters, I have decided to proclaim for the whole Church on
Saturday 7 September, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace, a day of
fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East, and throughout the
world, and I also invite each person, including our fellow Christians,
followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate, in
whatever way they can, in this initiative.
On 7 September, in Saint
Peter’s Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a
spirit of penance, invoking God’s great gift of peace upon the beloved nation
of Syria and upon each situation of conflict and violence around the world.
Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and
peace! I ask all the local churches, in addition to fasting, that they gather
to pray for this intention.
Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to
violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation
and love. She is our Mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her
children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate
ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of
encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!"