Assisi to host Mass for peace in Ukraine at the tomb of St. Francis

The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi The Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. | canadastock via Shutterstock.

The Italian city of Assisi will host a prayer vigil for Ukraine and a Mass for peace in the Basilica of St. Francis this weekend.

“The city and the Church community of Assisi, guardians of the message of peace from St. Francis and St. Clare, cannot remain silent in the face of the war that is returning to the old continent,” Archbishop Domenico Sorrentino of Assisi wrote in an appeal on Feb. 24.

“To those who are fomenting and initiating it with terrible consequences, we cry out: In the name of God, of humanity and of common sense, stop!”

The appeal, co-signed by the city’s mayor and five priests, called for a return to dialogue and negotiation, expressing sympathy with people suffering the consequences of war.

Assisi is known as “the city of peace.” The hometown of St. Francis hosted the Catholic Church’s first World Day of Peace 36 years ago, when Pope John Paul II invited representatives of other world religions to come together to pray for peace.

In Assisi, the Polish pope invited the world to “become aware that there exists another dimension of peace and another way of promoting it which is not a result of negotiations, political compromises or economic bargaining.”

“It is the result of prayer, which, in the diversity of religions, expresses a relationship with a supreme power that surpasses our human capacities alone,” he said on Oct. 27, 1986.

Sorrentino announced that Assisi’s prayer vigil for Ukraine will take place on Saturday, Feb. 26, at 9 p.m. in the Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels, a large church in the valley below the medieval hill town of Assisi that encompasses a small chapel, the Portiuncula, where St. Francis lived when he founded the Franciscan order.

The following day, all Masses in Assisi will be held with the intention of praying for peace, including a Mass offered by the archbishop at noon at the Basilica of St. Francis.

Eucharistic Adoration will also be offered in the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva on March 2, the day that Pope Francis has called all Catholics to pray and fast for Ukraine.

Mayor Stefania Proietti has called for all municipal offices in Assisi to display the international peace flag, a rainbow flag first used in a peace march from Perugia to Assisi in 1961.

She has also asked schoolchildren in Assisi to write messages and drawings appealing for peace, which will be sent to the presidents of Ukraine and Russia, as well as U.N. Secretary General António Guterres.

“It’s an appeal for peace that comes from the little ones and that touches the hearts of those who have the fate of the world in their hands,” the joint statement said.

“These small signs are meant to raise, from Assisi, an appeal to peace, to awaken in everyone the sincere desire for authentic peace that never passes through the way of war, but only through dialogue and mutual understanding.”

The Catholic Community of Sant’Egidio hosted a live-streamed prayer vigil on Thursday evening for peace in Ukraine in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere in Rome.

“It is our first, spontaneous response to the tragedy that is unfolding in Ukraine at the moment,” the Catholic movement said in a statement.

“We cannot resign ourselves to war as a last word, but we must ceaselessly ask for peace. This is what we implore for the good of Ukraine and the whole world, addressing everyone, starting with those who have responsibility for the nations.”

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The presidency of the Italian bishops’ conference appealed for an end to the conflict on Feb. 24.

“We appeal to the conscience of those with political responsibilities to stop the madness of war as soon as possible,” it said.

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