Catholics and people of all faiths are being asked to set aside any political or policy differences and to unite in a prayer for peace in the Middle East on Sunday, Jan. 13.

The appeal was made by Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the United States Catholic Conference, Washington, D.C..And Bishop William K. Weigand of the Salt Lake Catholic Diocese has recommended that, in addition to Archbishop Pilarczyk's request, local parishes plan a special prayer service or Mass on Tuesday, Jan. 15.

While it is not mandated, many parishes are already planning Masses for that date, Bishop Weigand said.

In a prepared release, Archbishop Pilarczyk said that last August, after Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, he twice called on the Catholic community to pray for the victims of aggression, for effective international cooperation to protect both human rights and peace and for an effective non-violent solution to the crisis.

"Since then our bishop's conference has written our national leaders and testified before Congress, sharing our condemnation of Iraq's aggression; our support for strong and peaceful pressures to halt and reverse it; our deep concerns about the moral dangers and human cost of war in the Gulf; and our consistent call for the United States to continue the determined pursuit of diplomatic, political and economic pressures to secure justice and maintain peace in the (Persian) Gulf region.

"Now, as the world stands on the brink of war, as the United States and Iraq face fateful decisions on reversing aggression and launching armed combat, I once again call on the Catholic community to come together in fervent prayer for peace with justice.

"We pray for our president, the Congress, those who make up our armed forces and diplomatic service and their families. We pray for the leaders of Iraq, their president, military forces and people; for the people of Kuwait so brutally and unjustly treated; and for the leaders, military forces and peoples of all nations involved in this crisis.

"Especially on Sunday, Jan. 13, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, it is my hope that Catholics will set aside any political or policy differences we might have to unite in a powerful prayer for peace, an appeal for justice and a common commitment to hunger and thirst for justice, to be peacemakers in these uncertain and dangerous days.

"Let us pray together that a just and peaceful solution will be pursued and found; that the peoples of the region may be relieved of the terrible threat of war; and that members of all the armed forces now arrayed in the region may soon be restored to their families."



Prayers for peace

Many local churches are participating in prayer vigils and gatherings focusing on the Middle East crisis as the United Nations' Jan. 15 deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait nears. Public gatherings include:

- The third interfaith Gulf crisis prayer vigil, Sunday, Jan. 13 at 7 p.m. at Wasatch Presbyterian Church, 1626 S. 1700 East. Leaders from various faiths will participate with prayers, sermonettes, a Litany and music. The public is invited.

- First Unitarian Church, 569 S. 1300 East, will host a community gathering on Tuesday, Jan. 15 at 7 p.m. in Eliot Hall. An open microphone will be available as participants share their sorrow, fear and frustration. The public is invited.