Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila led thousands of devotees in prayers for peace as tensions mount between the United States and Iran following the assassination of a top Iranian general.
A few days after Iran warned of retaliation for the January 3 US airstrike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, the cardinal said that “a threat of danger and violence is felt in some parts of the world”.
Soleimani was instrumental in Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East over the last decade and was the commander of the Quds Force, the elite overseas arm of the Islamic Republican Guard Corps.
Speaking at a midnight Mass for this year’s feast of the Black Nazarene at the Quirino Grandstand on Jan. 9, the cardinal hoped that the brewing conflict “may not lead to war”.
He particularly asked the devotees to pray for the Filipinos in danger of getting caught in the middle of the brewing conflict in the Gulf region.
“Let us pray for the safety of our fellowmen in the Middle East, to dispel the desire to destroy one’s neighbor, to dispel the desire to take vengeance,” said Tagle.
“And let us pray for our fellow Filipinos and their families here who are anxious,” he added.
At one part of his homily, Tagle led the crowd into a moment of silence for peace in the Middle East.
The Philippine government has ordered the evacuation of more than 1,500 Filipino workers in Iraq amid the escalating Middle East tensions.
Reflecting on the day’s Gospel, Cardinal Tagle then asked the devotees to imitate the mission of Jesus Christ.
“Jesus’ mission of love is also our mission. We should not let ourselves be the cause of danger and harm of our fellows,” he said.
“A real devotee of Jesus is the way of life and salvation. The success of love should start within us,” Tagle added.
The Nazareno fiesta Mass was seen as Cardinal Tagle’s last as Manila archbishop, a post he held for eight years.
Pope Francis had appointed the Cardinal to lead the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, a Vatican office overseeing the church’s vast mission territories.