Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa will depart January 6, 2014 on a two-week fact-finding mission in the Middle East.
Bishop Pates, who serves as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace, has a special concern for Syria and the Holy Land, and plans to show support for the local Church and the relief work of Catholic agencies in the region. He echoed the words of Pope Francis in his Urbi et Orbi message, particularly addressing the violence faced in Syria, the Central African Republic, South Sudan and the Holy Land.
“Too many lives have been shattered in recent times by the conflict in Syria, fueling hatred and vengeance,” Pope Francis said. “Let us never lose the courage of prayer! The courage to say: Lord, grant your peace to Syria and to the whole world. And I also invite non-believers to desire peace with that yearning that makes the heart grow: all united, either by prayer or by desire. But all of us, for peace.”
Bishop Pates continued, “As I prepare to make a solidarity visit to the Middle East in support of the local Church caught in the midst of regional conflicts, I recall in a special way our Holy Father’s Urbi et Orbi Christmas message in which he invoked the ‘Prince of Peace’ to lead people to give up their arms and ‘undertake the path of dialogue. In addition to a special concern for the Church and People of Syria, Egypt, Israel and Palestine, we remain deeply concerned for South Sudan, the Central African Republic and all places that do not know God’s peace.”