Locals pray for peace in Syria at vigil


PITTSFIELD -- Like many Catholics in the Berkshires, Mary Traversa followed the lead of Pope Francis who led a prayer of reconciliation and a solution that doesn't include military action.

Before stepping into St. Joseph Church in Pittsfield, the city resident said she'd pray for peace in Syria and for peace across the world.

Last week the pope called for churches to hold "Vigils for Peace," a prayer response instead of military action in Syria.

"I am thinking that's the only answer to get peace in Syria," Traversa said.

Traversa and a group of 25 people gathered at the church an hour before mass to pray for peace in Syria. Beginning next week, Congress will discuss a possible military strike in Syria based on allegations that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad used chemical weapons against his people in August.

Those who gathered at the church were not military experts, but concerned taxpayers. Traversa has empathy for the Syrian people, but she was also reluctant to see more troops in the Middle East, a comment echoed by others from the church.

"All I think of is Afghanistan and Iraq and that hasn't turned up much there," Traversa said.

Along with Pittsfield, Vigils for Peace were held at churches in North Adams and Sheffield.

Across the ocean in Rome, Pope Francis led a mass peace vigil on St. Peter's Square and he expressed his opposition to all fighting, including the military strikes against the Syrian regime, being advocated by the United States and France, according to media reports.

"Consistently in recent years, in Iraq and other situations, the popes have made similar messages for outreach of peace," said Mark DuPont, the spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield.

In Pittsfield, Father Michael Shershanovich, of St. Joseph, said the pope is voicing an opinion that needs to be heard.

"I think this pope is very outspoken for peace," Shershanovich said. "It's hard, you never want to see war. I think sometime you need a voice, a conscious ... [to] remind we need to love one another, and it needs to start some place."

Pittsfield resident Mary Sukiennik struggled to answer what she'd like to see done in Syria. She said her instincts tell her the U.S. military shouldn't get involved, but she's seen disturbing video of children suffering. She admitted she didn't have an answer, so she went to church to pray to God for a resolution.


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