Church in England, Wales launches day of prayer for Mideast

2012-12-04 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) The Bishops of England and Wales have invited the faithful in the U.K. to set aside Tuesday December 4, 2012 as a day of prayer in solidarity with all those suffering injustice in the Middle East and North Africa. The bishops made the announcement after their November Plenary assembly in which they reflected on the tragedy unfolding in Syria and Gaza.

December 4th marks the feast day of St John of Damascus; the bishops said they hoped in this way to link “the early Church with the living community of Middle Eastern Christians and their vocation as peace-builders.”

In a statement, the bishops prayed that “the example of St John’s life can serve to inspire Christians, Muslims and Jews alike to work for reconciliation and justice.”

President of the Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Archbishop Vincent Nichols recently returned from a visit to the Holy Land. He says “we’re obviously very conscious of the very fragile situation which is developing there at the moment. Therefore we recognize the importance of our prayer. Many people who spoke to us, including the Latin Patriarch, urged us to put prayer as a priority. The second priority they wanted was for us to continue to come in pilgrimage, particularly in support of the (local) Christian and Catholic communities there.”

“These are desperate times and people are really living under great tension and difficulties in both countries.”

The Archbishop also speaks of the bishops’ “great anxiety” concerning extensions of Israel’s security wall that are expected to adversely affect Christians in the Beit Jala/Bethlehem area.

Listen to Philippa Hitchen’s interview with Archbishop Nichols:

Prayer for Peace
O God of peace, who are peace itself
and whom a spirit of discord cannot grasp,
nor a violent mind receive,
grant that those who are one in heart
may persevere in what is good
and that those in conflict
may forget evil and so be healed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
St John Damascene, pray for us.
Prayer text from Roman Missal

Biographical Note on St. John of Damascus:
St John was born about 675 in Damascus (Syria) and died near Jerusalem about 749. He is understood to have followed his father as a Christian official in a Moslem government. Later he became a monk and later Priest at Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem, where he was renowned as a theologian and biblical commentator. He is remembered for his vigorous defence of the veneration of images against the iconoclasts, for his theological writings synthesising the thought of the Greek Fathers, and for his poetry and hymnody.