Cardinal-designate Vincent Nichols of Westminster has called on all people of good will to pray for peace in Syria and for the success of the planned talks in Geneva this week.
He was speaking just as Syria’s main opposition group said it would withdraw from the conference unless the UN retracted its invitation to Iran.
In a statement the cardinal-designate said: “Today I add my voice to those of many others in urging people of faith to pray for the success of the Geneva II conference on Syria that is due to begin on Wednesday.
“Pope Francis and the bishops of Syria have all pleaded for peace between the warring factions in that troubled land in which four out of every ten people have now fled their homes. Today we pray that this vale of tears may be comforted with an end to fighting. We pray that its children, banished from a normal life, and those many people now in exile, may be blessed by the mercy of God. We pray that those attending the talks will focus all their efforts on creating peace and respect for the dignity of every Syrian so that families may again flourish within their own land. We pray that aid may reach those in such desperate need.
“I ask all people of good will to join in this prayer, even those who do not normally raise their minds and hearts to God. Please, in a spare moment, whisper a prayer for peace for Syria.
“God knows our inmost hearts and will surely heed our prayers and give grace to those who take part in these crucial negotiations.”