Pope Francis has invited Roman Catholics, all Christians and members of other religions to observe Feb. 23 as a day of prayer, fasting and initiatives for peace.
On Sunday Pope Francis while addressing tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square for his weekly blessing, urged everyone to ‘say no’ to violence and conflict. The appeal is because of the “tragic prolonging” of conflicts around the world.
Feb. 23 is a Friday in the first full week of season of Lent, during which fasting from food and extra acts of charity are encouraged as a sign of penitence. Pope Francis said “everyone, in their own consciences, before God, should ask ‘what can I do for peace?’” “Surely, we can pray but not only: each one of us can say ‘no’ to violence in their own way, because victories obtained through violence are false victories while working for peace benefits all,” he said. He specifically invited non-Catholics and non-Christians to join the initiative in any way they saw fit, “but altogether”.
Pope Francis said the prayers and fasting should be offered in a particular way for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan. Both have been hit by a prolonged civil war, humanitarian crisis and unrest.