VATICAN CITY — Tens of thousands of people answered Pope Francis’ call for a four-hour Syria peace vigil in St. Peter’s Square late Saturday, joining Christians and non-Christians alike in similar vigils around the world.
About 70,000 people, according to an estimate by the Vatican, were present at the start of the vigil. It was believed to be one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action against the Syrian regime following the Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he issued a heartfelt plea for peace, denouncing those who are “captivated by the idols of dominion and power” and destroy God’s creation through war.
“This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!”
emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
VATICAN CITY – Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope Wednesday, becoming the first pontiff from the Americas and the first from outside Europe in more than a millennium.
He chose the name Francis, associating himself with the humble 13th-century Italian preacher who lived a life of poverty.
Francis shyly waved to the crowd of more than 100,000 people who packed a rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square for the announcement, marveling that the cardinals needed to look to “the end of the earth” to find a bishop of Rome.
In choosing a 76-year-old pope, the cardinals clearly decided that they didn’t need a vigorous, young pope who would reign for decades but rather a seasoned, popular and humble pastor who would draw followers to the faith and help rebuild a church stained by scandal.