“As if it were normal, we continue to sow destruction, pain, death.”
Pope Francis spoke these words in his homily at his Sept. 7th prayer vigil for peace in St. Peter’s Square, with tens of thousands joining in person and countless more Christians, Muslims, and others joining in prayer around the world. Many of us at the Mission joined the mass dedicated to peace here at the beautiful gothic Notre Dame Basilica that evening, with the Nuncio concelebrating. The place was packed, and although I understood only marginally more than “Alleluia” and “Amen”, it was quite beautiful.
The long and bloody civil war in Syria, and in particular the possibility of a military strike by the United States and France against the government of Bashar al Assad, has of course been the focus of much attention here in Geneva lately. Yet, perhaps as the fruits of prayer, we have seen some small signs of hope here. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met here in Geneva late last week, agreeing to keep communication open. Also, the Human Rights Council this week held a meeting to focus on the situation there. The Nuncio made the position of the Holy See clear, that “no military solution is a viable option in Syria.” Particularly poignant to me was noting that “justice and peace are not mutually exclusive and both can be pursued together so that impunity is not tolerated and reconciliation made possible.”
You can view the Nuncio’s statement before the Human Rights Council here (To skip ahead to his statement, scroll down to Chapter 51).
On a personal note related to Syria, I discussed with a Lebanese colleague about the uncertain status of Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio, SJ, an inspiring Syria-based Italian priest I had the privilege to meet in 2001. Dall’Oglio ran the restored ancient monastery of St. Moses the Abyssinian, dedicating it as a center of hospitality and Christian-Muslim friendship. I remember staying the night at this wonderfully peaceful place, waking up early to climb the hills above the monastery to watch a breathtaking sunrise over the Syrian desert. That he may have been killed in this awful war is potentially a sad loss for the Syrian people and for all. Please pray for him and for all Syria.