Pope lights Advent candle for peace in Syria

Source: Vatican Media

During the Angelus on Sunday with pilgrims in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis reflected on the meaning of Advent and lit a candle for peace in Syria.

Advent is not just a time of preparation for Christmas, he said, We are also looking forward to the return of Christ at the end of time, as well as our own, personal encounter with Jesus at the end of our lives. In these four weeks of Advent, we are "called to leave a routine way of living, and to go forth, nurturing hopes and dreams for a new future."

Advent, he said, calls us to "stay awake," to be vigilant, "looking outside ourselves, enlarging our minds and our hearts to be open to the needs of the people, of our brothers and sisters, and to the desire for a new world."

Closely tied to vigilance is the idea of prayer. "It's a matter of standing up and praying, turning our thoughts and our hearts to Jesus who is about to come," the Pope explained. "We stand up when we're expecting someone." He warned that if we see Christmas only through the lens of consumerism, as a "worldly celebration," then "Jesus will pass us by, and we will not find Him." Let us await Jesus, Pope Francis said, "and let us desire to await Him in prayer."

In the Old Testament reading for Sunday, Jeremiah speaks harshly to his people, who are at risk of losing their identity. "We Christians, too," the Pope said, "risk becoming worldly and losing our identity, indeed, of 'paganizing' the Christian style." And so, he concluded, we stand in need of the Word of God, which proclaims "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will fulfil the promise I made… I will raise up for David a just shoot; He shall do what is right and just in the land" And that just shoot, the Pope said, "is Jesus, it is Jesus who comes whom we await."

Pope Francis then called for prayers and concrete aid for Christians to remain in Syria. "Advent is a time for hope," he said. "At this time, I would like to make my own the hope of peace of the children of Syria." The Holy Father added his voice to an initiative of Aid to the Church in Need(ACN), by lighting a candle to officially launch their "Candles for Peace in Syria" Campaign.

"May these flames of hope dispel the darkness of war. Let us pray and help Christians to remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation… May the flame of hope also reach all those who are suffering in these days from conflicts and tensions in various other parts of the world, near and far."

He prayed that "the prayer of the Church" might "help them feel the closeness of the faithful God" and might "touch every conscience for a sincere commitment for peace."

The Holy Father also prayed that God might "forgive those who make war, those who make weapons to destroy one another" and the the Lord "might convert their hearts." Concluding his prayer, the Pope led the faithful gathered in St Peter's Square in the recitation of the Hail Mary "for peace in beloved Syria."

In a press statement, Aid to the Church in Need said it is "calling on people of goodwill all over the world to respond to this cry of peace from the children of Syria, among other things by lighting a candle … in order to spread this message of peace from the children of Syria and send a message of hope during the season of Advent."

ACN's statement noted that the candle lighted by the Pope was decorated by craftsman from the Old City of Damascus, and "also bears the photos of some 40 children, most of them from Aleppo, together with the logo of the campaign."

For more information on ACN's work in Syria, and the 'Candles for Peace in Syria' Campaign, visit: https://syria.acninternational.org/

Tags: Angelus, Pope Francis, Advent, Syria, ACN, Candle

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