CHARLESTON — While war raged in Iraq, the first day of spring, a season of birth and renewal, was marked at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist with a special Mass for peace and the protection of military forces.
The special liturgy was held March 21 and celebrated by Msgr. Joseph R. Roth, vicar general. Approximately 150 people gathered on short notice to worship. Fathers Marcian Thet Kyaw, Hayden Vaverek and Jeffrey Kendall concelebrated.
In his homily Msgr. Roth said that though the faithful came to Mass with heavy hearts they had an obligation to pray. He cited a statement issued by Bishop Wilton Gregory, president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops: “In time of war, our first obligation is prayer and solidarity. We pray for all those most directly affected by this war: the men and women who risk their lives in the service of our nation, their families and their loved ones who face such fear and anxiety at this time, and the chaplains who serve them; the long-suffering people of Iraq, and those who labor to provide for their humanitarian needs.”
Msgr. Roth reminded the congregation that many attempts had been made to prevent bloodshed in the Middle East.
“Our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II sent special emissaries to the Iraqi leadership and to our American president, asking for peace,” he said.
He encouraged people to do whatever they could to reach out in solidarity to all who will suffer as a result of this war.
“Never should we leave our troops out there alone,” Msgr. Roth said. “Your prayers and mine for their safety and security are essential. These men and women are our flesh and blood. They are our relatives and friends; they are our brothers and sisters, gone to do their duty to protect and defend our country as they have pledged to do.”
He also asked people to remember the chaplains.
“Their ministry in these trying times is critical,” he said. “I ask you to please pray for them that they may be able to help and to encourage our members of the armed forces. From our own parish, there are men and women overseas. Please do not abandon them but rather pray for them daily.”
Msgr. Roth also said that the debate of whether or not the United States should have gone to war may continue, but the reality of war necessitated solidarity with the men and women in U.S. armed forces and those of the nations assisting us; prayer for the innocent civilians who will be affected by war; and prayer for a quick end to hostilities and a return to peace.
“Together, may all of us join in prayer today for the return of peace in the Mideast and that all countries may live in a just and lasting peace, with dignity and respect for all peoples of all religions and ethnic backgrounds,” Msgr. Roth said. “As has so often been stated, if you want peace, support justice for all. Now is the time to do this so the road to true and lasting peace may not be a dream but a reality.
“God bless and protect the innocent; God bless and protect our peacekeepers; God bless America.”