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Pope supports pro-life movement, sets day of prayer for peace in Africa

With so many direct attacks on human life, from abortion to war, Pope Francis said he is worried that so few people are involved in pro-life activities.
Reciting the Angelus prayer at the Vatican Feb. 4, Pope Francis marked Italy's Pro-Life Sunday and also called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace Feb. 23, with special prayers for Congo and South Sudan.
Some 20,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square for the Angelus. Many of them carried the pro-life movement's green balloons with the message, "Yes to life."
Thanking all the "different Church realities that promote and support life in many ways," Pope Francis said he was surprised there were not more people involved.
"This worries me," the pope said. "There aren't many who fight on behalf of life in a world where, every day, more weapons are made; where, every day, more laws against life are passed; where, every day, this throwaway culture expands, throwing away what isn't useful, what is bothersome" to too many people.
Pope Francis asked for prayers that more people would become aware of the need to defend human life "in this moment of destruction and of throwing away humanity."
With conflict continuing in many parts of the world, the pope said it was time for a special day of prayer and fasting for peace and that it was appropriate for the observance to take place Feb. 23, a Friday in Lent.
"Let us offer it particularly for the populations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan," he said.
Fighting between government troops and rebel forces and between militias continues in Congo, especially in the east, but tensions also have erupted as protests grow against President Joseph Kabila, whose term of office ended in 2016. New elections have yet to be scheduled.
South Sudan became independent from Sudan in 2011 after decades of war. But, just two years after independence, political tensions erupted into violence.
Pope Francis asked "our non-Catholic and non-Christian brothers and sisters to join this initiative in the way they believe is most opportune."
And he prayed that "our heavenly Father would always listen to his children who cry to Him in pain and anguish."
But individuals also must hear those cries, he said, and ask themselves, "'What can I do for peace?' Certainly we can pray, but not only. Each person can say 'no' to violence" in his or her daily life and interactions. "Victories obtained with violence are false victories while working for peace is good for everyone."
  • Published in World

Together we pray: A day of prayer for peace is set in September

In light of recent incidents of violence and racial tension in communities across the United States, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops invited all dioceses throughout the country to unite in a Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities and appointed a special task force to support bishops in marking that Day of Prayer and promoting peace and healing.

In his initial and immediate response to the racially related shootings in Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz of Louisville, Ky., noted the need to look at ways the Catholic Church can walk with and help these suffering communities, according to the USCCB.

“I have stressed the need to look toward additional ways of nurturing an open, honest and civil dialogue on issues of race relations, restorative justice, mental health, economic opportunity and addressing the question of pervasive gun violence,” Archbishop Kurtz said. “The Day of Prayer and special task force will help us advance in that direction. By stepping forward to embrace the suffering, through unified, concrete action animated by the love of Christ, we hope to nurture peace and build bridges of communication and mutual aid in our own communities.”

The Day of Prayer for Peace in Our Communities will be celebrated on the Feast of St. Peter Claver, Sept. 9, and will serve as a focal point for the work of the task force.

According to Phil Lawson, director of evangelization and catechesis for the Diocese of Burlington, parishes are encouraged to pray for peace in all communities at Mass that day. “Where the rosary is prayed before or after Mass, peace can be the particular intention that day. A Holy Hour in adoration is also a good option,” he suggested. “Still further, as we are called to take the peace of the Lord out into our communities, why not offer a free noontime cookout on the front lawn of the parish and invite the neighboring families, businesses, churches and workers to come together in fellowship?  Or an evening ice cream social open to the whole community?  The possibilities are unlimited.” 

Asked why parishes should join in this effort, he quoted Blessed Teresa of Calcutta: “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”

The purpose of the task force is to help bishops engage the challenging problems directly by gathering and disseminating supportive resources and best practices, actively listening to the concerns of members in troubled communities and law enforcement and building strong relationships to help prevent and resolve conflicts. 

The task force will conclude its work with a report on its activities and recommendations for future work to the November General Assembly.

Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory of Atlanta, former USCCB president, will chair the task force.  

“At every Mass, we ask the Lord for His peace, we receive it in our hearts, and we go forth to share it with others. What a world we could have!” Lawson said.  

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