Pope Francis has designated Saturday as a Day of Fasting and Prayer for Peace in Syria and in the world. There will be a vigil Saturday evening in St. Peter’s Square.
Pope John Paul II proposed a similar initiative in 2001, in the aftermath of the attack on the Twin Towers in New York. That day of fasting and prayer was observed Dec. 14 of that year, and the faithful implored God to grant the world a stable peace, founded on justice. In addition, the Polish Pontiff invited representatives of the religions of the world to go to Assisi on Jan. 24, 2002, to pray for the resolution of conflicts and the promotion of genuine peace.
In addition to the spiritual benefits, fasting places a person in solidarity with the thousands of people in the world who every day suffer hunger. And as the Pontifical Council for the Family has just affirmed in a statement, this Saturday is also an occasion to explain to younger members of families the reason for this sacrifice.
A note published by the Office of Liturgical Celebrations in 2001 on the occasion of the Day of Prayer and Fasting convoked by John Paul II offered points of reflection on the meaning of fasting and prayer, as well as pastoral suggestions.
“The ‘day of fasting’ should be understood not just in terms of the legal norms set down in the Code of Canon Law (CIC 1249-1253; CCEO 882-883), but in a wider sense which freely involves all the faithful: children, who willingly make sacrifices to help other poor children; young people, who are especially sensitive to the cause of justice and peace; all adults, excluding the sick but including the elderly,” the document indicated.
“Fasting has an important place in all the great religions,” the note explained. “[…] The practice of fasting looks to the past, present and future: to the past, as a recognition of offences committed against God and others; to the present, in order that we may learn to open our eyes to others and to the world around us; to the future, in order that we may open our hearts to the realities of God and, by the gift of divine mercy, renew the bond of communion with all people and with the whole of creation, accepting the responsibility which each of us has in history.”
On the Net:
Note on Day of Fasting and Prayer: www.vatican.va/news_services/liturgy/documents/ns_lit_doc_20020124_assisi_en.html