In the face of North Korea’s threats to bomb the island of Guam, the Catholic faithful have gathered in parishes across the US territory to pray for eased tensions between the two nations.
With more than 80 percent of Guam’s 162,000 population identifying as Catholic, large groups of clergy, religious, and lay persons gathered to offer Mass, rosaries, and other prayers for relief to the pressure between the United States and North Korea. The world has seen tensions rise between the U.S. and North Korea in recent years, continuing to test ballistic missiles and develop its nuclear options, facing opposition from the world’s leaders and even recent sanctions from the United Nations.
The coadjutor archbishop of Aga√±a asked the clergy of the country’s 26 churches to promote peace and offer prayers during Sunday Mass on August 13. “In your Masses this Sunday, especially in the prayer of the faithful, please offer prayers for peace between our nations, just resolution of differences, and prudence in both speech and action,” said Archbishop Michael Byrnes in an August 11 statement.
Additionally, hundreds of parishioners responded to an invitation by the Archdiocese of Aga√±a to pray a rosary at the old Spanish government palace, and rallies commemorating the 100th anniversary of Our Lady of Fatima took place all across the country.
Guam has faced threats before, but the recent round are particularly intense and explicit. However, priests and lay leaders say prayer brings comfort and hope, recognizing that God is in control of the situation. The Gospel messages “tell our people that God is in control of what is happening and if we have faith and believe in God all this rhetoric and war possibility here on Guam will be taken care of by God,” said Monte Mesa, vice-chairman of the Guam Visitors Bureau, according to ABC News.
North Korea has been aiming to lengthen their missile range, in what many political leaders have speculated is in ultimate attempt to reach U.S. soil. Last month, the country tested its second intercontinental ballistic missile, leading the U.S. to call for additional economic sanctions.
In response to President Donald Trump’s threat to “bring fire and the fury” if tests continue to pose a risk to American safety, Pyongyang said via an August 9 statement by the Korean Central News Agency that they were “examining the operational plan for making an enveloping fire at the areas around Guam.” Some 3,000 miles from North Korea, on the southern end of the Mariana Islands, the 210-square mile piece of land is a strategic presence for the U.S., due to its proximity to Asia.
Guam has a large number of bases, housing around 7,000 U.S. service members, as well as aircraft carriers, which were a significant force during the Vietnam War.
In an August 16 statement, KCNA said the country is pausing the potential attack on Guam while continuing to monitor U.S behavior. United States officials have still expressed concern.