Dear Brother Priests:
The challenge of peace in today’s world is multifaceted. Violence, terrorism, ethnic and religious battles are going on all over the globe but especially in the Middle East and in Africa. It is easy to get angry and even vengeful. But, as priests and disciples of Christ, we lead our people by word and example. And the Lord teaches us, Blessed are the peacemakers.
The Holy Father constantly calls us to be peacemakers. To all who will listen, he urges us to reach out and protect the suffering, the homeless, the victims, including our Christian brothers and sisters so often the targets of violence and murder, along with other ethnic and religious minorities. The drama of war and its many side effects has become a daily occurrence and there seems to be no true end in sight. We will be living with violence and threats of violence for a long time. What are we then to do? We cannot resign ourselves to indifference or silence. We are responsible for the good of others, especially the suffering and the innocent.
For us disciples of Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, there is no choice but to follow His example and become instruments of His peace. That demands first and foremost that we recognize that ultimately peace is a gift from God Who alone can guarantee true and lasting peace. The sure consequence of that truth is that we must enroll ourselves into the ranks of men and women who pray daily for peace. Prayer is God’s weapon of choice that is always at the ready so long as we exercise it. For this reason, I am issuing a call to peace as Bishop of this Diocese, an urgent invitation to one and all, without exception, to accept the responsibility and to commit ourselves to daily prayer for peace.
The Holy Fathers from 1967 till today ask us to dedicate the first day of the New Year or a day near it as the World Day of Peace. As a local Church, I wish to renew our commitment to that. The Cathedral of Saint Agnes will designate either New Year’s Day or January 24, the Feast of Mary, Queen of Peace, to be celebrated as the World Day of Peace every year. I invite us all to unite in the fraternal bond of prayer with our Holy Father who offers us year after year a Message for the World Day of Peace which, taken together, have become a rich and inspiring catechesis of peace.
1. As Bishop, I am authorizing that every parish include in the Prayer of the Faithful at every Sunday Mass the following intention: For peace in our world, an end to violence wherever people are being persecuted, driven from their homes or put to death, that through the intercession of Mary, Queen of Peace, God’s gift of peace might soon be attained, we pray to the Lord. (The pastor is free to insert a particular reference according to the need and the issues at hand.)
2. Every parish is to organize a Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament exposed at least once a month for the intentions of peace and the restoration of peace and harmony everywhere that it is being destroyed. As Saint Augustine wrote, Some want to make a desert and call it peace. We pray for peace that is the fruit of justice and love.
3. While I know that many of the faithful throughout our Diocese pray the rosary every day, for some that is more than they can reasonably do. Still, the rosary to Mary, the Queen of Peace, is one of the most powerful and effective prayers we have. For that reason, I would ask as many of you as can to commit yourself to say the rosary once a week for the gift of peace. You do not have to say the rosary alone. Within your parish you may know people who would be willing to do this with you. We can form a rosary chain from parish to parish that will link us to one another across the breadth of our Diocese in a fervent rosary of intercession to Mary, the Mother of God, Queen of Peace. Perhaps some may want to add this invocation at the end of each decade: Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us.
4. We have received updated information from Caritas Iraq about the plight of Christians in the area. I authorize a special collection to be taken in the summer (Aug 1/2), the proceeds to be used to assist those who are suffering religious persecution in Syria and Iraq and wherever needed. I am sending money from my charities account to offer immediate assistance and I invite the generosity of all Catholics.
5. Finally may I offer you a special prayer for peace written by our beloved Pope Saint John XXIII? Please use this prayer whenever you pray privately. I authorize its use in meetings and in gatherings of the faithful. I urge our Catholic schools to say this prayer daily at the morning home room when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited. It would be a good prayer for CYO and school sports to use at the beginning of games. The Knights of Columbus and the Catholic Daughters, the Rosary Societies and the many other volunteer and apostolic groups that meet and work to advance the Kingdom of God might also include this prayer in their gatherings or at the end of a rosary or the beginning or end of trip, a visit or a day. Telecare will find ways to use this prayer between their television programs. Here it is and it soon will be available on a small prayer card for your convenience.
Lord Jesus Christ, who are called the Prince of Peace,
Who are yourself our peace and our reconciliation,
Who so often said ‘Peace to you’,
Grant us peace!
Make all men and women witnesses of truth, justice and brotherly love.
Banish from their hearts whatever might endanger peace.
Enlighten our rulers that they may guarantee and defend the great gift of peace.
May all peoples of the earth become as brothers and sisters.
May longed-for peace blossom forth and reign always over us all. AMEN
Mary, Queen of Peace, Pray for us!
(Pope Saint John XXIII)
My brothers, it is my hope and prayer that our Diocese will become a burning furnace of prayer for peace using any and all of the ways God gives us to intercede for peace in the world. Please use this letter in any way that will be helpful. Print in your bulletins. Excerpt it for your website. Use it in homilies if that would be useful. But let us be the instruments to stir up in the hearts of our people a renewed commitment to peace, calling them to be peacemakers by being men and women of prayer, men and women who call on Mary and the saints to be our protagonists, and add their pleas to ours that the God of mercy who sent his Son to bring peace into the world may change hearts and enflame lives so that violence, bloodshed and murder may end and the world may know true peace, which is a gift from God for all humankind.
Fraternally yours in Christ,
||Bishop Murphy’s letter on Christian Persecution and the commitment to Peace