Sisters of the Order of the Missionaries of Charity participate in the candlelight prayer vigil on Sunday, Oct. 15, 2023. (Credit: Daniel Ibáñez)
Catholic News Agency
By Matthew Santucci
ROME — A candlelit prayer vigil and recitation of the rosary for peace in the Holy Land was led by Cardinal Angelo De Donatis, vicar of the Diocese of Rome, on Sunday evening, Oct. 15.
The illuminated papal Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore formed the backdrop of the event. At the center of the parvis, framed by red damask, was the icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Salus Populi Romani, literally “salvation of the Roman people.”
This Byzantine icon, which arrived in Rome in the late sixth century and is attributed to St. Luke, has been a constant presence during the pontificate of Francis. Before every apostolic journey he prays before the icon for protection from Our Lady, and when he returns he visits the Pauline Chapel at the basilica to thank her.
At the beginning of the event the basilica’s bells rang out for four minutes to begin the meditation on peace. De Donatis, flanked by bishops, led the crowd, which filled the entire piazza, in prayer.
The candlelight vigil opened with a prayer for the Holy Land. It was followed by a recitation of the rosary, with each decade being recited by a different layperson, followed by brief meditations on the glorious mysteries by De Donatis.
Following the conclusion of the rosary, De Donatis walked over to the lectern, positioned to the right of the Marian icon, to deliver his meditation.
“We have gathered here in front of the icon of Mary, our Salus Populi Romani, to ask for her intercession for peace in the Holy Land and in the entire world,” De Donatis said.
The Holy Land is a place where
“we learn to walk in the steps of the Lord, he said. But, he lamented, “that very land is tormented today.”
The 69-year-old cardinal’s remarks took a rhetorical turn to express his closeness and prayers for the departed, the injured, and those who continue to suffer.
“There are many who, driven by hatred, have killed others, and we ask the Lord that they change their ways, converting to love. There are many dead, and for them we pray with faith that they rejoice in eternal peace. Many are hostages, and we ask the Lord that they can soon return to the affection of their loved ones. There are many injured, and we ask the Lord that they be helped and cared for. There are many Jews, Christians, and Muslims who are suffering tremendously in these days, and we ask the Lord to console them,” De Donatis said in a solemn tone.
The cardinal’s words resonated with the faithful, many of whom were visibly moved by the words and the power of the vigil.
Quoting the Holy Father’s appeal from the Angelus earlier that day, De Donatis renewed the pope’s appeal for peace in the Middle East: “Please, no more innocent blood be shed, neither in the Holy Land, nor in Ukraine or anywhere else! Enough! Wars are always a defeat, always!
De Donatis ended his mediation quoting St. John XXIII’s seminal 1963 encyclical Pacem in Terris, (Peace on Earth): “May all peoples welcome each other to their hearts as brothers, and may the peace for which they long, ever flower and ever reign among them.”
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