The pope blessed 6,000 rosaries for Syrian families who have suffered during the civil war – which will be distributed via Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need.
Pope Francis carried out the blessing following the mid-day Angelus prayers at the Vatican yesterday (15th August).
The pope said: “The rosaries, made on the initiative of ACN, are a sign of my closeness to our brothers and sisters in Syria, especially those who have lost a loved one.”
He added: “Prayer made with faith is powerful. We continue to pray the rosary for peace in the Middle East and in the whole world.”
In parishes where Christians were killed or kidnapped, the rosaries will be distributed over the weekend of 14-15th September as part of an ACN-backed initiative.
As well as a Rosary blessed by the pope, each family will be given a Bible in Arabic, also provided by ACN, a crucifix from the Syriac Orthodox Church and a prayer to Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians.
The prayer will also be distributed at Sunday services on 15th September in all of Syria’s 34 dioceses, both Catholic and Orthodox.
During the Angelus in Rome that same Sunday, Pope Francis will pray for Syria and in particular families of war victims.
He will also bless an icon of Our Lady of Sorrows, Consoler of Syrians, painted by a Greek Orthodox priest in Homs.
Before Thursday (15th August)’s Angelus message, Pope Francis received a delegation from Aid to the Church in Need at Casa Santa Marta including Thomas Heine-Geldern, Executive President ACN (International).
During the meeting, Pope Francis praised the charity’s work: “I thank ACN for everything you do.
“When we pray with the people in Syria, we come close to them.”
Dr Heine-Geldern was also present with the pontiff on the balcony in St Peter’s Square when the rosaries were blessed.
Since 2011 ACN has provided more than £32 million for 850 projects in Syria, including essential food aid for IDPs, fuel and heating for poor families and medical assistance.