Pope Francis to lead prayers for peace in Syria and Middle East

Ecumenical commemorations are part of marking the anniversary of the Reformation

Irish people are being encouraged by the Catholic bishops to join with them and Pope Francis by holding prayer gatherings for peace, particularly in Syria and the Middle East, in parishes, schools, community venues or at homes all over the island next Monday.

The initiative has been organised to coincide with the visit of Pope Francis to Malmö in Sweden where he will take part in early ecumenical commemorations marking the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

It began on October 31st, 1517, when Augustinian priest Fr Martin Luther sent his 95 theses to the Archbishop of Mainz in Germany. Some time later these were posted by him on the door of All Saint's church in Wittenburgh.

Organised by the Catholic Church, Caritas International and the Lutheran World Federation, the visit of Pope Francis to Sweden is intended to shift the emphasis from any perception of possible conflict between the Catholic and Protestant churches to one of communion, with a particular focus on young people and the hope which this commemoration may bring.

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On Monday Pope Francis, along with president of the Lutheran World Federation Bishop Munib Younan and its general secretary Rev Martin Junge, will lead a common prayer service based on the recently published Catholic-Lutheran Common Prayer liturgical guide.

A special prayer for use on Monday is available at www.catholicbishops.ie.

Trócaire has developed a special prayer service for use in parishes on Monday, which also available at the same website.

Chairman of Trócaire Bishop William Crean said: "Innocent men, women and children are paying the ultimate price in the continuing conflict raging in Syria, especially in Aleppo, where they are caught in the crossfire. I join with Pope Francis in urging governments to find a political solution to the war in Syria."

Those taking part in prayer gatherings on Monday have been invited to share their particular prayer service using the hashtag #PeacePossible4Syria.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is Religious Affairs Correspondent of The Irish Times