Expressing anguish over the suffering of the Syrian people and echoing the pope’s exhortation for negotiation and dialogue to resolve Syria’s long civil war as the United States contemplates military action against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, said in a statement Sept. 3.
The statement came as President Barack Obama spent Sept. 3 meeting with congressional leaders to outline his justification for a military response to Syria’s reported use of chemical weapons Aug. 21. U.S. officials said the attack claimed 1,429 lives.
“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 Sept. 7 for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria and to violent conflicts everywhere,” said Cardinal Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, and Bishop Pates, chairman of the bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace.
“Pope Francis has exhorted ‘the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace … a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people,” the statement said.
Describing the use of chemical as “particularly abhorrent,” the prelates also called for prayers for those who have died and were injured during the chemical weapon attack and applauded the efforts of responding humanitarian workers.
Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates repeated an Aug. 30 call from the USCCB that reiterated an earlier statement urging the U.S. to seek a cease-fire among Syria’s warring factions, begin serious negotiations, provide “impartial and neutral humanitarian assistance and encourage building an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities.”
“The Holy Father reminds us that ‘peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected’ and that ‘all men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace,'” the statement said.
“We ask 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. May our prayers, fasting and advocacy move our nation to promote a peaceful resolution of the conflict in Syria. And may Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us and the people of Syria,” the statement concluded.