by Stephen Schneck
With that tweet from earlier this week, Pope Francis has become the peace pope. The world needs to take notice. The pope’s leadership in world public opinion has been an inspiration for much of the opposition to President Barack Obama’s plans for military strikes against Syria’s regime. Signs are that the cause of peace may become a dominant one for this pontiff and, if so, the potential is there to redefine the world’s perception of the papacy, of the Vatican, and of the Catholic Church.
Today, Saturday, September 7, was called by Pope Francis to be a day of fasting and prayer for peace. Heeding that call, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington, offered a Mass for peace at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Bishops and parish priests in nearly every American diocese hold similar worship services for peace. Ditto for most Catholic colleges and universities. Millions of everyday Catholics around the world joined in these prayers. Interestingly, the papal call for prayer and fasting has crossed denominational lines, including some rocky ecumenical lines, as many Protestant groups, Orthodox churches, and even Hindu temples will join Catholics in prayer and fasting. The papal hashtag #prayerforpeace trended in the Twitter stratosphere for much of the week.
Many Catholic politicians in Washington – among them Speaker John Boehner, former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary John Kerry – might back President Obama’s looming military response, but papal opposition to American use of military force in Syria has been clear and emotionally moving. Against military intervention, he stated in St. Peter’s Square last Sunday…