TRENTON, NJ - Bishop David M. O’Connell, C.M., will celebrate the 4 p.m. Mass on Sept. 7 in St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, as part of the Vigil for Peace in Syria and the Middle East called for by Pope Francis.

Bishop O'Connell has encouraged Catholics throughout the four-county Diocese of Trenton to participate in a day of prayer and fasting in support of the Holy Father's request. Pope Francis issued the call in his Sunday Angelus message Sept. 1 in St. Peter’s Square. Departing from the reflections he typically gives on the Gospel to the crowds who throng the square every Sunday, he framed his message as a strong “appeal which arises from deep within me.”

“There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days, my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming,” the pope said. “For this reason, brothers and sisters, I have decided to call for a vigil for the whole Church.”

The pope noted that he was proclaiming the vigil for “the whole Church” on the vigil of the birth of “Mary, Queen of Peace,” and invited “each person, including our fellow Christians, followers of other religions and all men of good will, to participate in whatever way they can, in this initiative.

The pope also conveyed the hope that fasting would accompany the intention of prayer for peace whenever possible.

In a statement issued by Bishop O’Connell on the call for peace, he echoed the pope’s message, referring to peace as “much more than the absence of war or avoidance of conflict. Peace is the intentional determination, commitment and subsequent effort to create an environment where all men and women, regardless of their differences, can live together or near one another in genuine harmony, mutual respect and unconditional charity …”

Bishop O’Connell is among many Catholic leaders in the United States standing in solidarity with Pope Francis on the need for prayer in this critical time. Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Bishop Richard E. Pates, chairman of the USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace issued statements reflecting the gravity of the situation and Pope Francis’ position that “dialogue” is the “only option” that can put an end to the conflict and the suffering of the Syrian people.

A joint statement from New York’s Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates, spiritual leader of Catholics in Des Moines, Iowa, highlights the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Syria and affirms “the need for dialogue and negotiation to resolve the conflict that has wrought so much devastation.”

“As our nation’s leaders contemplate military action,” in response to the use of chemical weapons in Syria, they wrote, Sept. 3, “it is particularly appropriate and urgent that we in the United States embrace the Holy Father’s call to pray and fast on September 7 for a peaceful end to the conflict in Syria and to violent conflicts everywhere.”

The guidelines for fasting – one principal meal with two smaller meals if needed; water throughout the day and only those between the ages of 14 and 59 have to fast – will also be prominently posted, Msgr. Sirianni said.

Holy Hours, recitation of the Rosary and Masses dedicated to the theme of peace have been scheduled throughout Burlington, Mercer and Monmouth Counties. 

Established in 1881, the Diocese of Trenton is comprised of Burlington, Mercer, Monmouth and Ocean Counties with a Catholic population of 830,000.  The diocese has 298 priests, 355 permanent deacons and 450 religious men and women serving in 109 parishes, 36 Catholic elementary schools and 8 high schools. More information can be found at www.dioceseoftrenton.org