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Day of prayer planned for Saturday

In response to a statement by Pope Francis calling for a worldwide day of prayer for peace in Syria, area religious groups are encouraging local residents — regardless of faith — to join the effort Saturday.

Francis delivered the statement Sunday in St Peter's Square, inviting "all men and women of good will" to participate in support of peace in Syria and "each situation of conflict and violence around the world."

He asked leaders to "listen to the voice of their own conscience" regarding Syria in order to avoid "blind conflict."

The Pope's message "was nuanced, sensitive and humble," said Dr. Michael Anderson, member of the Council of the Baptized for the Archdiocese of Minneapolis and St. Paul, a Catholic advocacy and reform group formed in 2011.

"They were the words of a very distraught spiritual person."

Anderson said the way Francis directed his message to all people of the world was important, as it frames the looming conflict in Syria in moral — and not specifically Catholic — terms.

"It was universal enough that people of all faiths, or no particular faith" could agree with it, he said.

Anderson added: "It was the kind of announcement one would expect from the Holy Father, but doesn't get in every case."

"I believe this pope is seriously interested in peace," said Regina Nicolosi, a bishop with the Roman Catholic Women Priests who resides in Red Wing. "He's not politicising or taking sides."

Nicolosi said Saturday's day of prayer is a time for all people to reflect on current events in the world.

"It's difficult to know what to do," she said. "We really need to put our hearts and minds together to make sure we do this right."

President Barack Obama said Saturday he would seek authorization from Congress for "limited" strikes against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, which is accused of killing more than 1,400 people with a chemical weapon attack in the ongoing Syrian civil war.

Obama said his administration would lay out a case for an attack against the Assad regime in the coming days, including what he called "profound implications for America's national security."

Anti-war demonstrations also are planned Saturday in Washington, D.C., as lawmakers return from summer recess.

Excerpts from Pope Francis' call for peace:

I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! ...

With all my strength, I ask each party in this conflict to listen to the voice of their own conscience, not to close themselves in solely on their own interests, but rather to look at each other as brothers and decisively and courageously to follow the path of encounter and negotiation, and so overcome blind conflict. With similar vigour I exhort the international community to make every effort to promote clear proposals for peace in that country without further delay, a peace based on dialogue and negotiation, for the good of the entire Syrian people. ...

All men and women of good will are bound by the task of pursuing peace. I make a forceful and urgent call to the entire Catholic Church, and also to every Christian of other confessions, as well as to followers of every religion and to those brothers and sisters who do not believe: peace is a good which overcomes every barrier, because it belongs all of humanity! ...

On 7 September, in Saint Peter's Square, here, from 19:00 until 24:00, we will gather in prayer and in a spirit of penance.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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