Catholic and Episcopal leaders in El Paso and New Mexico are encouraging a local "Prayer for Peace in Syria" for this Saturday.
The churches are responding to Pope Francis' recent call to people of all faiths to spend a "day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria."
"My heart is deeply wounded by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments," Francis said at his weekly papal appearance to crowds in St. Peter's Square on Sunday.
Like many, Francis is against the U.S. and France committing a military strike on the Syrian regime for an alleged chemical weapons attack. The U.S. government claims more than 1,400 people, including 400 children, were killed in an Aug. 21 attack by the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad on a rebel-held suburb of Damascus. The Syrian government has denied the allegations and blames the rebels.
President Barack Obama is seeking the approval of Congress to authorize a U.S. military strike. Francis is asking people to pray for peaceful negotiations instead.
"Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace," Francis said.
The Rev. Bob Mosher of the Columban Mission Center in El Paso said violence in response to violence is not the answer.
"Many of us in the community of faith are afraid to respond to the atrocity with more violence that will drag us down in a spiral of more violence," he said.
Mosher added that the strike is not warranted because the United States is not under attack.
"The attack on any human being affects each of us and we do have to respond in a direct and forceful manner but also in a peaceful manner," he said.
"We want to come together to reflect and pray for peace, even non-believers are welcome to come and show their solidarity of peace with their presence."
Mosher will lead the interreligious prayer Saturday at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
"We have a Muslim representative coming and we were hoping to get more representatives of different faiths but we know with the Jewish new year, it's a busy time for people," he said.
In Albuquerque, Episcopal Bishop Michael L. Vono also asked congregations in his diocese (which includes El Paso) to join Catholics in setting aside a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Saturday and Sunday.
He also requests that prayers for peace be part of the Eucharistic celebration and that church bells toll to call the entire community to prayer.
"I share with most of you, I suspect, confusing feelings of anxiety, dread, anger, sadness, and even depression, each waking day as we listen to the daily news," he wrote in a letter to laity and parishioners.
"I stand with many secular and religious leaders to categorically denounce and condemn the use of chemical weapons. ....I also now add my voice ...to unite in public common prayer to ask Almighty God to enlighten the minds and hearts of those in political power to seek reconciliation, a just resolution and a lasting peace to the conflicts in Syria and the entire Middle East" he said.
He added, "we are not helpless as Christians. This is my consolation. We live in faith, confident that God hears the prayers of his suffering people and that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can change the hearts and redirect the souls of all men and women."
-- The Catholic Church will have a "Prayer for Peace in Syria," at 7 p.m. Saturday at St. Patrick Cathedral, 1118 N Mesa. All are invited. Information: 351-1153.
(c)2013 the El Paso Times (El Paso, Texas)
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Distributed by MCT Information Services
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