As the Pope prayed the Rosary in front of the Madonna of the Miracle, a Syrian Franciscan sister remains firmly hopeful that despite the continuing war, the best years lie ahead for Syria and her ancient Christian community.
On the feast of St. Joseph the Worker, Pope Francis made a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Divine Love on the outskirts of Rome this evening to pray for peace in the world, especially in Syria.
“Let us pray together,” he told the faithful on arrival at the shrine before reciting the Rosary in front of the image of the Madonna of the Miracle.
The Pope announced his wish to pray at the shrine on Sunday, during his Regina Coeli prayer, saying he would be praying “especially for peace in Syria and in the entire world.” He asked the faithful to “join him spiritually” in continuing to pray “the Rosary for peace” during the Marian month of May.
The Pope, who said he would also be praying for peace in Nigeria and the Koreas, has frequently expressed his concerns about Syria.
The seven-year war has left an estimated 500,000 dead, five million Syrians have fled the country and over six million have been internally displaced. The war grew out of the 2011 Arab Spring and discontent with the government of Bashar al-Assad, but other groups and nations have since become involved, including ISIS which is seeking to overthrow Assad and impose Salafist rule.
The Pope said April 15 he was “deeply disturbed” by the failure of the international community to end the war and bring peace to the Middle East nation.
On April 14, the US, France and Britain carried out a series of military strikes against multiple government sites in Syria in response to a chemical attack against civilians in the Syrian city of Douma on April 7. Although blamed for the atrocity, the Syrian government denied involvement in the Douma attacks and denounced the airstrikes as a violation of international law.
Christians in Syria, who make up roughly 10% of the population and belong to one of the oldest Christian communities in the world, have been cautious about taking sides during the war, although many have a preference for the Assad regime which they see as guaranteeing their survival in the face of the Islamist threat.