“MY BELOVED SYRIA is being tormented by a war that already lasted for eight years,” stated Pope Francis, as he appealed for peace, saying “at this time, I would like to make mine the hope of the children in Syria.” With these words, immediately following the noon Angelus prayer at St. Peter’s Square in Rome on the first Sunday of Advent, Dec. 2, 2018, , Pope Francis lit a large candle—prepared by Aid to the Church in Need—for peace and reconciliation in Syria, a country torn apart by a war that has now lasted longer than World War II.
With this act Pope Francis marked the start of the “Candles for Peace in Syria” initiative, an Advent campaign by Aid to the Church in Need (ACN) aimed at raising awareness and support for the suffering Christians in this country. “May the flame of hope also reach all those who are suffering in these days from conflicts and tensions in various other parts of the world, near and far,” said the Pope. “Let us pray and help Christians to remain in Syria and the Middle East as witnesses of mercy, forgiveness, and reconciliation,” he added.
The “Candles for Peace” campaign started in Syria when local Christian communities along with ACN invited schoolchildren throughout the country to draw and write messages for peace on candles’ cardboard wind shields and then to gather for processions, theater, songs and dances for peace. The main candle given to the Holy Father was created during these events in Damascus, decorated by photos of Syrian children participating in the “Candles for Peace” activities. “Advent is a time for hope,” said Pope Francis, adding that “this is why, joining the initiative of the Aid to the Church in Need, I will light now this candle. In Syria there are so many children who are doing the same.”
The Pope called upon the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square to pray a “Hail Mary” for peace in Syria and throughout the world. “May this prayer make them feel the closeness of God, who is faithful, and touch every conscience to bring about a sincere commitment to peace. May God, our Lord, forgive those who make war, those who make weapons to destroy each other. We pray for peace in beloved Syria.”