Catholics in the Archdiocese of Edmonton are being invited to pray for peace in Syria, fast in solidarity with the suffering of the Syrian people, and give generously to help the millions of refugees who have been forced to flee their homes.

Pope Francis has called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the whole world this Saturday, September 7.

 "Humanity needs to see these gestures of peace and to hear words of hope and peace!” Pope Francis told the faithful in St. Peter’s Square last Sunday. “I invite 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.”

In Edmonton, Auxiliary Bishop Gregory Bittman will lead a special vigil prayer service at 7:30 p.m. Saturday evening at St. Joseph’s Basilica. All are welcome.

Parishes throughout the Archdiocese have also been responding throughout the summer to a joint financial appeal by the Bishops of Canada and the Canadian Catholic Organization of Development and Peace.  Proceeds are being forwarded to agencies working directly with refugees, who now number more than 2 million according to the United Nations. The emergency campaign officially wraps up on Saturday, September 14, which has been designated a special day of prayer and fasting in Canada. In Edmonton, Archbishop Richard Smith will preside at the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass at St. Joseph’s Basilica, a celebration that will include special prayers for peace. All are welcome.

Both Edmonton services will include special collections for the Development and Peace Syria Emergency campaign. Donations can also be made online at www.devp.org/donate.

In a message to parishioners, Archbishop Smith described the situation in Syria as “truly horrible.”

“Please plan to set aside time to pray and to make sacrifices on behalf of those who are suffering,” Archbishop Smith said. “Let us pray together that the power of the Cross will bring to that very troubled land a true and lasting peace.

“Thank you for your participation in either or both of these days. Let us be one with our Holy Father, the Bishops of Canada and each other in solidarity with the suffering of Syria. “