ORANGE – What good can come of more war?
That was the question Bishop Kevin Vann, Orange County’s highest-ranking Catholic, posed to more than 100 parishioners from across Orange County on Sunday night during a special prayer service for peace in Syria held at the Holy Family Cathedral in Orange.
“May our prayers rise to God and surround those who are making the decisions,” Vann said. “That somehow this light that comes out of the darkness surrounds them, shows them …that, no, this is not the way to go. We cannot do this one more time.”
The service was led by the cathedral’s rector, Monsignor Doug Cook, and followed a day of prayer and fasting on Saturday called for by Pope Francis and echoed to the county’s 1.2 million Catholics by Vann.
“As we pray for the decision makers in our government, we especially pray for those who have to live in the middle of all this,” Vann said.
Special prayer services are rare at the cathedral, said usher Mark Buckles, who recalled just a few in the last two decades – including one after 9/11.
Vann also is urging local Catholics to reach out to members of Congress urging military restraint and asking that the U.S. provide humanitarian assistance, said Ryan Lilyengren, spokesman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange.
He is not alone in his efforts. Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, sent a letter last week to U.S. lawmakers calling on them to avoid military action.
“May our prayers make a difference; may it change hearts,” Vann said.
There had been confusion over whether the bishop would attend the special service, and his presence was a welcome surprise. Many parishioners in attendance said they don’t want to see the U.S. take military action in Syria.
“I don’t know what the answer is, but war can’t be the answer,” said parishioner Lauren Copenhaver.
Layne Bukovskis, of Santa Ana, said he appreciated that the service offered him time to sit and pray in silence.
“We are trying to follow our Holy Father’s call for intense prayer,” he said.
The service drew members of other faiths as well.
Maria Khani, a Muslim originally from Syria, said she was moved to tears several times during the service.
“It gives you hope that good people are still alive and here around you,” she said.
St. Joseph Catholic Church in Placentia will hold a special Mass for peace in Syria at 7 p.m. Monday.