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Dear Very Reverend and Reverend Clergy of the Diocese of the West:

Below is an email sent me by a friend who works in the area of Orthodox-Roman Catholic relations. It is an announcement of a day of prayer and fasting, this coming Saturday, concerning the steadily worsening situation in the Middle East  As all of you know, Syria was once a place where Christians of the Middle East were the most protected. The present drama threatens everyone in Syria, but especially the Christians. I would ask you to consider joining in this appeal to the only One who can solve the problem of the Middle East, God Himself. This is one thing all Christians can do together, Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Protestants.

Archbishop of San Francisco

Pope Francis has taken a big risk. Will his dramatic call for a day of fasting and prayer be largely ignored by the world? There was not even a mention of the appeal in the major Seattle newspaper today. The local press seems more interested in Tomahawk missiles. What percentage of Catholics will really fast next Saturday? Will the Orthodox Churches really join in the fasting and prayer on Saturday or will they consider this simply a “Catholic thing” ? What will the Muslim response be? With only six days between the announcement and the actual day of fasting and prayer, it is very easy to say that there is too little time to plan or organize anything. However, if this is delayed a month, what will happen in the meantime? To what extent will the heads of major denominations and primates of Local Churches join in the call for fasting and prayer on Saturday? Will I actually fast next Saturday? Will you actually fast next Saturday? There are many questions that will be answered as this week continues.
Of course, it is too early to say what the response of the world will be.  So far, there are some glimmers of hope.  Here are a few:
“Yesterday, the Maronite Patriarch in Beirut, Cardinal Bechara Rai, visited the Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, Youhanna Yazigi, and the two leaders said they were ‘deeply comforted by the Pope’s appeal’, pledging to raise awareness in their communities for common prayer.”  Link
The Grand Mufti of Syria desires to be in St. Peter's with the Pope to pray for peace in Syria: Muslims and other groups join in the appeal.  Link

Catholics in India will fast and pray.  Link

Melkite Patriarch --  In Syria we will keep our churches open until midnight to allow everyone (Catholics, Orthodox and Muslims) to pray. Vigils will be held wherever possible, even if there are fewer than 10 people participating. There will be special prayers at the famous Orthodox Marian shrine of Saidnaya.  Link
So far, I have seen the appeal of Pope Francis on few Orthodox websites.  Here are some that have reported it: LinkLink 2Link 3

Peter Anderson

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