“We are anguished by the terrible suffering of the Syrian people and again affirm the need for dialogue and negotiation to resolve this conflict that has wrought so much devastation,” said Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, in a Sept. 3 statement.“As our nation's leaders contemplate military action, it is particularly appropriate and urgent that we in the United States embrace the Holy Father's call to pray and fast on September 7 for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria and to violent conflicts everywhere,” they continued.
Cardinal Dolan is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Pates chairs the conference’s Committee on International Justice and Peace.The two Church leaders echoed the words of Pope Francis, who called on the whole Catholic Church to take part in a day of fasting and prayer this Saturday, Sept. 7, the vigil of the birth of Mary, Queen of Peace.
“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming,” the Holy Father said in his Sunday Angelus message on Sept. 1.His call for prayer and fasting comes as nations including the United States discuss the possibility of military action following reports that chemical weapons were recently used against civilians in Syria, killing more than 1,400 people.
Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates asked “all U.S. Catholics and people of goodwill to join us in witnessing to the hope we have in our hearts for peace for the Syrian people,” uniting themselves to those praying and fasting in Rome.In their statement, they affirmed that the use of “chemical weapons is particularly abhorrent and we urgently pray for the victims of such atrocities and for their loved ones.”
But despite the atrocity of the reported use of such weapons, the bishops reiterated their earlier warnings against the use of military force as a response, instead stressing that “the path of dialogue and negotiation between all components of Syrian society, with the support of the international community, is the only option to put an end to the conflict.”