On Tuesday, October 17th, the community observed a day of prayer and fasting in response to the call from Cardinal Pizzaballa, the Patriarch of Jerusalem. The Mass was officiated by Bishop Manetti, the Bishop of Fiesole, who declared, “We earnestly seek peace with the cry of our hearts.” Eucharistic adoration was arranged by the young people.
“A young Palestinian, an Israeli Jewish lady, another young Palestinian, a Belgian teacher, and yet another young Palestinian stood at the pulpit of the Shrine of Loppiano. There, the invocations for peace took on the broken voices and suffering faces of individuals whose lands have been marred by the outbreak of the conflict between Hamas and Israel and the terrorist attack in Brussels. The citadel promptly embraced Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa’s invitation, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, to observe a day of fasting and prayer for peace on Tuesday, October 17. Pope Francis also appreciated the proposal and extended it to believers worldwide.
The Shrine of Theotokos was crowded and a deep sense of reverence accompanied the recitation of the Rosary, using texts prepared by the Custody of the Holy Land. First, the touching prayer prepared by Pope Francis was read: ‘We have tried many times and for many years to resolve our conflicts with our own strength and even with our weapons. We’ve endured many moments of hostility and darkness, witnessed much bloodshed, many lives shattered, and countless hopes buried. But our efforts have been in vain. Now, Lord, help us! Grant us peace, teach us peace, lead us toward peace.'”
Then, he concluded: “Keep the flame of hope alive in us to carry out choices of dialogue and reconciliation with patient perseverance, so that peace may finally prevail. And may these words be banished from the heart of every man: division, hatred, war!” And furthermore: “Lord, disarm the tongue and the hands, renew the hearts and minds, so that the word that brings us together is always ‘brother,’ and the style of our lives becomes: shalom, peace, salaam! Amen.”
The prayer meeting began with Mass, presided over by Bishop Stefano Manetti of Fiesole and concelebrated by around twenty priests from various parts of the world. “We are in a truly difficult moment,” the bishop began, “Dark clouds are gathering in the sky, but we ask for peace with a heartfelt cry. War is a demonic act, but prayer and fasting can stop the conflict. Let us begin this great prayer, which is encapsulated in an invocation: ‘Jesus, our Redeemer, save us!'”
Two violins, a flute, and a guitar filled the air with the slow and solemn notes of the Latin hymn ‘Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est’ (Where charity and love are, there God is present) At 9:00 PM, the second part of the prayer event began, prepared by young people from the formation schools and students of Sophia. The Eucharistic adoration was enhanced by songs and brief prayers, in the company of a multitude of attendees. A profound silence enveloped the gathering, as they collectively beseeched the Father for the gift of peace to encompass every corner of the Earth. Within their hearts, they held the hope expressed by the Pope: “May the hostages be freed, may civilians not be victims of the conflict, may humanitarian rights be respected, and may no more innocent blood be shed.”