Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai is greeted by supporters as he arrives in Damascus, on February 10, 2013
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai is greeted by supporters as he arrives at the Holy Cross church in Damascus, on February 10, 2013. Churches across Lebanon are to heed a Vatican call for a prayer vigil for peace in Syria and against armed intervention in the country's conflict. © Louai Beshara - AFP/File
Maronite Patriarch Beshara Rai is greeted by supporters as he arrives in Damascus, on February 10, 2013
AFP
Last updated: September 7, 2013

Lebanon churches join Vatican Syria prayer vigil

Churches across Lebanon are to heed a Vatican call on Saturday night for a prayer vigil for peace in Syria and against armed intervention in the country's conflict.

Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Rai is to lead prayers at the Basilica of Our Lady of Lebanon at Harissa, north of Beirut beginning at 8:00 pm (1700 GMT).

The Maronite church is the largest Christian community in Lebanon and follows the Pope, but other Christian denominations are also expected to join Pope Francis's call for prayers.

Gregory Laham, patriarch of the Church of Antioch and head of the Greek Catholic Church, has called on his community to fast and to pray from 8:00 pm to midnight for peace in Syria.

Pope Francis called last week for the global day of fasting and prayer, and is scheduled to lead a mass vigil in St Peter's Square in the Vatican.

The Argentine pope has urged a "cry for peace" from the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics, Christians as a whole, believers from other faiths and atheists.

Syria's Sunni Muslim leader, Grand Mufti Ahmad Badreddin Hassoun, has called for Syrians to join in the prayers, and the Orthodox patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew I, has said he is also backing the initiative.

In Lebanon, the vice president of the Shiite Higher Council, Sheikh Abdel Amir Qabalan, has also backed the pope's call for a day of fasting and prayer.

"Islam calls consistently for peace and harmony, and we consistently condemn killings, terrorism and foreign interference," he said.

The prayer day comes as US President Barack Obama is pressing Congress to approve military action against the Syrian regime in response to an alleged August 21 attack with chemical weapons.

Washington, which claims the attack killed more than 1,400 people, has blamed the Syrian regime for launching it.

The government denies that, instead blaming rebels.

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