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Prayers rise for peace in Holy Land as conflict worsens

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A peace vigil was also held at St Michael the Archangel, Darlington. Photo: Giovanni Portelli
A peace vigil was also held at St Michael the Archangel, Darlington. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

Sydney’s Catholics answered Pope Francis’s call for a special day of fasting and prayer for peace on 27 October as death and destruction continued to rage in the Holy Land.

Bishop Richard Umbers led vespers followed by Mass and a Holy Hour at St Mary’s Cathedral with several hundreds in attendance including Chris Meney, archdiocesan chancellor, and Anthony Cleary, director of religious education and evangelisation for Sydney Catholic Schools.

Bishop Umbers recalled the suffering endured by Christ’s mother, the beloved disciple and others who accompanied him at his crucifixion.

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Their hope, and ours, is grounded in his resurrection, ascension and second coming after which “peace will reign forever” he said.

“No one knows the day or the hour [but] in the Holy Mass, in the Eucharist, we experience a foretaste of the peace only God can give.

“We beseech the Lord for peace, peace that calls for justice, a peace that is grounded not on vengeance, for vengeance belongs to the Lord, but a peace that requires forgiveness beginning in our own hearts.”

In calling for a dedicated day of prayer for the Holy Land and also Ukraine, Pope Francis urged believers to take “just one side in this conflict: that of peace. But not with words, with prayer, with total dedication.”

Two days earlier on the feast of Our Lady of Palestine Melkite Bishop Robert Rabbat celebrated a Divine Liturgy at Sr Rita’s Melkite Catholic parish in Ashcroft, in Sydney’s south-west, for all those injured or killed in the current war.

They included extended family members of Sydney’s Christian Palestinian community who died or were injured while sheltering in a church building at St Porphyrios Orthodox parish in Gaza on 19 October.

“Events in the Middle East are lurching forward in a frenzied, seemingly out of control pace,” said Bishop Rabbat.

“However, for us as the people of God there can be no call to arms, no battle cry, for there can be only the call to a heartfelt prayer for peace.”

Peace vigils were also celebrated on 25 October at St Michael the Archangel Melkite Cathedral in Darlington, where interfaith leaders joined the service, and St John the Beloved in Greenacre.

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