I have decided to proclaim for the whole church Sept. 7, 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.
Catholic leaders in Europe and the United States have joined other Christian leaders urging peaceful negotiations, not military intervention, as the best way to resolve the Syrian civil war.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops issued an action alert Tuesday for the faithful to call their senators and representatives and "urge them to vote against a resolution authorizing the use of military force in Syria. Instead, ask them to support U.S. leadership, in collaboration with the international community, for an immediate ceasefire in Syria and serious, inclusive negotiations for peace."
Congress is expected to convene next week to vote on the resolution that the Obama administration supports in retaliation to a suspected chemical weapons attacked carried out by Syian President Bashar Assad on Aug. 21 that killed more than 1,400 people.
"Both the Holy See and Conference of Bishops have condemned the chemical attack, but remain convinced that only dialogue can save lives and bring about peace in Syria," the alert stated.
The call to contact Congress comes two days after Pope Francis asked for a day of fasting for peacemakers, according to the National Catholic Reporter.
"I have decided to proclaim for the whole church Sept. 7, 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," he said, according to Vatican Radio. "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. ... Never again war. We want a peaceful world. We want to be men and women of peace."
Catholic clergy in Europe have also spoken out against intervention, according to a detailed account of public statements in the NCR.
"Earlier, warnings against military intervention were voiced by church leaders in the Middle East, including Archbishop Fouad Twal, Latin patriarch of Jerusalem; Syrian-born Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham; and Chaldean Bishop Antoine Audo of Aleppo," NCR reported.
"Meanwhile, Metropolitan Hilarion of Volokolamsk, head of ecumenical relations for the Russian Orthodox Church, said, more victims would be 'sacrificed on the altar of an imagined democracy' if strikes took place and Syria's Christians would suffer from 'radical extremist forces taking power with U.S. help.' "
Meanwhile, the Most Rev. Justin Welby, the archbishop of Cantebury and head of the Anglican Church, told The Daily Telegraph before British Parliament voted against outside military action in Syria that there were “numerous intermediate steps” between doing nothing and full regime change in Syria that could be considered.
"But ... he acknowledged that there was no 'good answer' to the crisis in Syria and that a simple solution 'just doesn’t exist.' "