During Pope Francis’ Sunday blessing from the Vatican, the pontiff called for the world to hold a day of fasting and prayer for Syria. “May the cry for peace enter the hearts of everyone,” he said, promising to lead prayers and a five-hour vigil on Saturday from St. Peter’s Square. Pope Francis—who went viral this week for his selfie taken with young pilgrims in St. Peter’s Basilica—extended an invitation to all faiths and non-believers to promote peace in Syria.
The pope said that, “There is judgment from God and history on our actions that no one can escape,” referencing the use of chemical weapons. He refrained however from directly accusing Syria of the crime.
Tugging at heartstrings, the pope called forth the images of the last week and a half, “My heart is profoundly wounded in these days by what is happening in Syria and I am anxious about the prospect of dramatic developments.”
As US leaders plan to debate responses to the Syrian regime, the Vatican opposes plans for military action by global powers and favors a negotiated solution. “Never again to war!” Pope Francis said, calling forth a historical reference to late Pope Paul VI’s Vietnam War-era speech at the United Nations. The last call for global fasting and prayer was from late Pope John Paul II in mourning for the September 11 attacks.
In other Vatican-related developments, the pope appointed Archbishop Pietro Parolin, an Italian and former deputy foreign minister at the Vatican, to be Secretary of State. Italian Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone has maintained the position since 2006, but Bertone has become a divisive figure as the Holy See attempts to recover from embarrassing scandals and financial probes. Bertone also acted as a key inside advisor for retired pontiff Benedict XVI. Parolin will take over the role on 15 October, after returning from his papal envoy duties in Venezuela.[Image via Facebook.]