Denver Catholic

DCR - Sept. 11, 2013

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2 I CATHOLIC LIFE SEPTEMBER 11, 2013 I DENVER CATHOLIC REGISTER ARCHBISHOP'S COLUMN MOST REV. SAMUEL J. AQUILA Archbishop Aquila to mark 9/11 anniversary with Mass today No prayers are wasted On Saturday evening, people all over the world joined Pope Francis to pray for peace in Syria and the Middle East. In the wake of the vigil, I encourage you to continue praying each day and I assure you that no prayer or sacrifice goes unseen by God our Father. The fight between Syria's government and the rebels has hit civilians particularly hard, and the country's Christian population has been caught in the middle. Some estimates put the death toll for the two-year conflict at 100,000 people. And for Syrian Christians the situation is especially dire. Throughout the months of fighting, bishops and priests have been kidnapped, Christians have been forced from their homes, and some believers have been executed. Although you probably have not heard about the price Christians are paying, it is real and appears to be on the rise. Syrian Christians are caught between the government troops of President Bashar al-Assad, a dictator who is a dangerous but known entity for them, and the rebel fighters, whom they fear will persecute them if the jihadists among them are able to remove Assad and create an Islamist state. As many of you know, the carnage in Syria moved Pope Francis to call a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, which was celebrated worldwide on Sept. 7. And Christians weren't the only ones who joined in praying and fasting for peace. The Grand Mufti of Syria, Ahmad Badreddin Hassou, who leads the country's Sunnis, told Pope Francis that he would join the effort either in Damascus or, if possible, in St. Peter's Square. Here in the Denver Archdiocese, we held vigil in front of the Blessed Sacrament from 7 p.m. to midnight in our Cathedral Basilica, and other parishes throughout the archdiocese, on the eve of the feast of the Birth of Mary, Queen of Peace. To add to the urgency of the situation, as I write this column, the United States is considering entering into the conflict with missile strikes to punish the Assad regime for allegedly gassing civilians and others in a Damascus suburb. The consequences of such an intervention are not by any means clear. Pope Francis has clearly spoken out against military action. "There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence," he said Sept. 1. If you read the news, you know that Syria is not the only place where Christians are persecuted these days. After the military coup that removed Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi from power, some of his supporters from his political party, The Muslim Brotherhood, took to the streets to blame Christians for the ouster. In the time since Morsi was removed, nearly 100 Christian churches have been attacked, and some of them have been completely destroyed. Our fellow believers are being kidnapped and held for ransom in Egypt, and when their family cannot pay the exorbitant sum, they are tortured and sometimes executed. The questions that naturally rise to mind are: "Will my prayers make any difference? What happens if I fast and pray and the fighting continues?" I can think of no better answer to those questions than this coming Saturday's feast of the Exaltation of the Cross. In his first letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul noted that the cross is "folly to those who are perishing" but not to those of us who are being saved (1 Cor 1:18). Even if more of our fellow brothers and sisters are killed in the conflicts that are convulsing the Middle East, and even if the United States launches airstrikes against Syria and the region becomes more troubled, our prayers will not be in vain. It helps to remember that by all accounts and outward appearances, Jesus lost when he died on the cross 2,000 years ago. See Aquila, Page 10 PHOTO BY TODD WOLLAM FOR THE DENVER CATHOLIC REGISTER TODAY, Sept. 11, Archbishop Samuel Aquila will celebrate 12:10 p.m. Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception to commemorate the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States Sept. 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people. The Cathedral Basilica is located at 1530 Logan St. in Denver. Above: Archbishop Aquila is pictured with first responders who attended the annual Blue Mass on Sept. 7 at the Cathedral Basilica. The archbishop's homily from the Mass is available at or on iTunes. Peace PETITION FOR PEACE From Page 1 Islam, were amplified under the Syrian regime of President Assad and his family. Assad, a part of the minority Alawite clan of Shia Muslims, faced rebellions from disgruntled Sunnis and other Syrians. Some are religiously opposed to his regime, others want political change. Then civil war erupted in 2011. Some 100,000 people were killed, 4 million were driven from their homes and 2 million fled. Recent evidence of chemical weapons caused the world to take notice. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called its use crossing a "red line for the world." U.S. bishops joined to condemn the violence in a letter to Congress Sept. 5. They wrote their concern is on the "humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and on saving lives by ending the conflict, not fueling it." Locally, experts say it's the "For the people of Syria, that God may strengthen the resolve of leaders to end the fighting and choose a future of peace. We pray to the Lord…" Read more The U.S. bishop's letter to Congress about Syria and a prayer for peace to attack Israel if the U.S. attacks them. The threat of a third world war is not exaggerated. That's why we need a lot of prudence and certainly a lot of prayer." Spreading peace In solidarity with the pontiff, churches and dioceses worldwide held vigils for peace. Before the vigil in Rome, Catholic leaders met to draft a letter titled "People for peace in Syria" addressed to Congress. Father Andre Mahanna of St. Rafka Maronite Church in Lakewood was among the writers. He said the letter urges a full understanding of Syria and peaceable solutions. "The government should always take into consideration the perspective of the Church for it communicates closely with people, and it knows the reality of their problems and does offer solutions," he said. alliances in the Middle East that make a strike risky. If Syria is hit, its allies Iran and the Hezbollah, a terrorist Shiite organization in south Lebanon, are expected to come to their aid. These allies also threaten to strike Israel. "The problem is that we could have a domino effect," said André Villeneuve, a professor of St. John Nissa LaPoint: 303-715-3138; Vianney Theological Seminary in Denver, who lived in Israel for 12; www. years. "Syria is saying they're going DENVER CATHOLIC REGISTER CIRCULATION CUSTOMER SERVICE: 303-722-4687 OR CIRCULATION@ARCHDEN.ORG Published by the Archdiocese of Denver, 1300 S. Steele St., Denver, CO 80210 General Manager Karna Swanson Denver Catholic Register (USPS 557-020) is published weekly except the last week of December and the first week of January, and in June, July and August when it goes bi-weekly. The Register is printed by The Denver Post LLC in Denver. Periodical postage paid in Denver, CO. Editor Roxanne King Subscriptions: $35 a year in Colorado; $42 per year out of state. 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