This morning, Pope Francis offered one of the synod’s daily moments of prayer for peace in the Middle East, and appealed the international community to put immediate interests aside, and find solutions. “Dear Synod Fathers, dear brothers and sisters, in resuming this morning the work of the General Congregation, I invite you to dedicate the prayer of the Third Hour to the intention of reconciliation and peace in the Middle East,” the Pope said Oct. 9. Francis’ prayer came as meetings with small groups closed and general congregations began again in the synod, which has reached its 5th day of discussion. Every day, the synod fathers pray together the Liturgy of the Hours, which is a set of daily prayers that priests and religious are obliged to pray. Many lay Catholics also pray this liturgy, which incorporates psalms, hymns and readings from Scripture and the Church Fathers. The day’s prayers are set according to the Church calendar. Opening the prayer, Pope Francis said that “we are painfully struck and we follow with great concern what is happening in Syria, in Iraq, in Jerusalem and the West Bank,” where violence has escalated, claiming innocent lives and fueling “a humanitarian crisis of enormous proportions.” War, the Pope said, only brings destruction and multiplies suffering, while hope and progress can only come from peace. “Let us unite, therefore, in an intense and confident prayer to the Lord, a prayer that intends to be an expression of solidarity at once with (our) brother Patriarchs and Bishops from those regions, who are present here, as well as with their priests and faithful, and to everyone who lives there.” Francis also made a heartfelt appeal to the international community, asking nations to find a way to effectively help the concerned parties “broaden their horizons beyond the immediate interests” and to use international law and diplomacy to resolve current conflicts. He also offered prayers for areas of the African continent that are currently experiencing “analogous situations of conflict,” and asked Mary, Queen of Peace to intercede for them. Chaldean Patriarch Luis Raphael Sako I of Iraq gave the homily during the prayer, focusing on the importance of faith in the passage from the day’s prayer, taken from Rom 1:16-17. The passage reads: “I am not ashamed of the gospel: it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written, ‘He who through faith is righteous shall live’.” Patriarch Sako said the text provides a true synthesis of both the Gospel and what it means to be a pastor, explaining that St. Paul’s desire to be with and accompany the Christian community of Rome is a special mission that involves his entire life, heart and thought, “but it's not a career.” St. Paul, he said, is someone “who feels invited by God. Through him the Gospel is an act of worship; to pray, to be in communion with God, to love, obey and live and give witness to the joy announced by the Gospel every day.” The patriarch said that faith is “a fundamental condition” in being made children of God, since it is faith that gives life meaning. “Faith is not a static fact, or a speculation, but it's an interior vision, a deep mystical relationship, lived in the details of the difficulty of daily life,” he said, adding that faith, like love, “is a commitment and must grow day after day in the long path of life: from faith to faith.” If love does not exceed justice, “the Gospel is empty,” the patriarch continued. He closed by saying that in order to understand, one must feel what the Christians of Iraq have experienced, who in one night last summer “left everything to remain faithful to their faith.”
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