Catholics around the world united in a call for peace in the Middle East and Ukraine on Friday, as Pope Francis led a day of prayer, fasting and penance.
Heeding the pope’s call, Cardinal Blase Cupich asked Chicago parishes to dedicate Friday Masses to praying for peace.
“There’s nothing much we can do as an individual, but as the priest said, we can show by example and we can pray,” said Keum-Lee Mayes, who attended Holy Name Cathedral’s midday Mass.
“It doesn’t matter what side you are on. Why are we killing each other?” she asked.
More than 7,300 Palestinians have died in Gaza and more than 1,400 Israelis have been killed, mostly civilians slain during the initial Hamas attack Oct. 7, according to the Associated Press. The war in Ukraine has raged for 20 months, with thousands dead.
Cupich also asked area Catholics to observe a fast, abstaining from one meal Friday. But Holy Name parishioner Anna Kuth was fasting the entire day, having only water. Her thoughts were for the refugees of the ongoing wars.
“I pray that they have food, clothing and shelter,” she said.
Pope Francis led a Mass for peace at St. Peter’s Basilica at 11 a.m. Chicago time, overlapping with many Friday Masses in the Midwest. Last Sunday, Francis phoned President Joe Biden to renew his appeals for restraint in the war in Israel and Gaza.
Francis has called for similar days of fasting and prayer five other times in the past decade. The last plea was in March 2022 when Russia invaded Ukraine. He’s also called days of peace for the Syrian civil war in 2013, for conflicts in Sudan and the Congo in 2018, after the 2020 explosion in Beirut, Lebanon, and in 2021 when the Taliban seized power in Afghanistan as the U.S. withdrew the last of its troops.
At Holy Name Cathedral, the Rev. Louis Cameli led a Mass focused on a reading from the book of Matthew and Jesus’ call to “resist not evil.”
“While you and I may not have the responsibilities of world leaders,” Rev. Louis Cameli told parishioners, “what we can do is be present in this world and be signs of God’s love. And with faith renewed, life will be transformed. God’s promise of peace will come.”
Cupich is spending October at the Vatican for a periodic gathering of bishops, also called a synod.