100K Throng Vatican for Francis' Syria Vigil

'War is always a defeat for humanity,' pope says during 4-hour vigil

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Sep 8, 2013 5:32 AM CDT

(Newser) – Tens of thousands filled St. Peter's Square for a four-hour Syria peace vigil late yesterday, answering Pope Francis' call for a grassroots cry for peace that was echoed by Christians and non-Christians alike in Syria and vigils around the world. The Vatican estimated about 100,000 took part in the Rome event, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against US-led military action against Syria. Francis issued a heartfelt plea for peace, denouncing those who are "captivated by the idols of dominion and power" and destroy God's creation through war. "This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!" he said.

The gathering took on the air of an anti-war rally, with protesters holding up Syrian flags and banners in the square reading "Don't attack Syria" and "Obama you don't have a dream, you have a nightmare." The 76-year-old pope held up well throughout the four hours—lasting longer than many who by the vigil's 11pm conclusion had already gone home. He thanked those who had stayed to the end for their company. Elsewhere:

  • In Damascus, a few dozen Syrian Christians attended a service in the al-Zaytoun Church, joining Francis' invitation for a global participation in the day of fasting and prayer.
  • In Washington, at least 150 protesters picketed in front of the White House and marched to Capitol Hill. Anti-war protests were also held in New York City's Times Square and a prayer vigil was held in Boston.
  • In Francis' native Argentina, human rights and religious groups held a vigil in Buenos Aires' Plaza de Mayo and in cities across the country. Vatican Radio reported similar initiatives were taking place throughout Italy, in Cuba and elsewhere.
The peace vigil marked something of a novelty for the Vatican: Nothing of its kind has ever taken place in St. Peter's Square, though popes past have participated in daylong peace prayers in places like Assisi.

Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Tens of thousands answered Francis' call and massed in St. Peter's Square for a 4-hour vigil.
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Tens of thousands answered Francis' call and massed in St. Peter's Square for a 4-hour vigil.   (Riccardo De Luca)
People hold Syrian flags and signs against a possible attack to Syria, prior to the start of a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
People hold Syrian flags and signs against a possible attack to Syria, prior to the start of a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Tens of thousands answered Pope Francis' call and massed in St. Peter's Square for a 4-hour prayer vigil.
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Tens of thousands answered Pope Francis' call and massed in St. Peter's Square for a 4-hour prayer vigil.   (Riccardo De Luca)
People hold Syrian flags and signs against a possible attack to Syria, prior to the start of a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
People hold Syrian flags and signs against a possible attack to Syria, prior to the start of a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (Riccardo De Luca)
A man wearing a Syrian flag prays during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
A man wearing a Syrian flag prays during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Tens of thousands have answered Pope Francis' call.
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. Tens of thousands have answered Pope Francis' call.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
A view of St. Peter's Square during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
A view of St. Peter's Square during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
A view of St. Peter's Square during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
A view of St. Peter's Square during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis, at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis prays during a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Pope Francis prays during a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
A believer prays during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
A believer prays during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Nuns pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Nuns pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Faithful pray during a vigil for peace attended by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.
Pope Francis attends a vigil for peace in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.   (AP Photo/Riccardo De Luca)
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