At their plenary meeting in November 2012, the Bishops of England and Wales reflected on the tragedy of conflict and death in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, the Holy Land and the wider Middle East North Africa region.
As one sign of solidarity with the peoples of the whole Middle East North Africa (MENA) region, the bishops asked that the Catholic community mark 4 December as a day of prayer for all those suffering from injustice.
That date was chosen because it is the feast day of St John of Damascus and thus provides a way of linking the early Church with the living community of Middle Eastern Christians and their vocation as peace-builders.
The bishops pray that the example of St John’s life can serve to inspire Christians, Muslims and Jews alike to work for reconciliation and justice.
O God of peace, who are peace itself
and whom a spirit of discord cannot grasp,
nor a violent mind receive,
grant that those who are one in heart
may persevere in what is good
and that those in conflict
may forget evil and so be healed.
Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.
St John Damascene, pray for us.
Prayer text from Roman Missal © 2010 ICEL
St John Damascene or St John of Damascus
Priest and Doctor of the Church
Feast celebrated on 4 December
St John was born about 675 in Damascus (Syria) and died near Jerusalem about 749. He is understood to have followed his father as a Christian official in a Moslem government. Later he became a monk and later Priest at Mar Saba monastery near Jerusalem, where he was renowned as a theologian and biblical commentator. He is remembered for his vigorous defence of the veneration of images against the iconoclasts, for his theological writings synthesising the thought of the Greek Fathers, and for his poetry and hymnody.