The Senate's historic vote for a resolution authorizing the use of military force in the Middle East was less than one day old when Paul Sarbanes sought solace and understanding at church.
The Maryland Democratic senator, who voted Saturday afternoon against the resolution and against a war, attended services in a somber and weary mood yesterday morning at the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation.
After the Rev. Constantine Monios urged the congregation to pray for peace and for wisdom among world leaders, Sarbanes listened to the urgent pleas of his fellow parishioners, most of them constituents.
"Quite a lot of people came up to me after church -- they said, 'Why are we rushing into this?,' 'Show patience and some skill,' and 'Thank you for the way you voted,' " Sarbanes said.
"People don't want to go to war, that's what I heard at church," he added. "It was obvious how closely people were praying -- you could feel it in that congregation. People want to find some comfort at a time like this and you start to think a lot in religious terms. We go to church quite regularly, but we had a little extra motivation facing us today."
Sarbanes was not alone. Most area churches were filled yesterday with people praying for a swift, peaceful resolution in the Middle East.
Rev. Edward Manalis, of the Basilica of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, stood against an ornate backdrop of candles, poinsettias and Christmas wreaths at the mass he presided over at 5:30 p.m.
He asked the parishioners to pray "for the quick and safe return of our boys in the Persian Gulf, especially those from our families," while the song, "Let There Be Peace on Earth," was played.
Manalis said he knew of few people in the church who have family members in the Persian Gulf but added that it would be hard to know of all of them because the huge basilica on Cathedral Street is "more like a shrine than a parish."
"The Basilica has been praying for the troops in the Persian Gulf ever since the deployment of troops. Hopefully our prayers will be answered," he said.
Alfie Creamer, an usher at the Basilica, pulled a clipping out of his wallet from the book of Zachariah that describes Arab nations coming together to attack Israel.
"If you go as far as the Bible prophecy, they [Arab nations] are all gonna bomb Israel," Creamer said. "I think it really is a holy war, LTC and I think if they had Jesus Christ as their God, they would never feel this way about the war. They believe that they're right. They believe that their God is right. How can their God allow them to go to Kuwait and let them massacre people like that? I'm behind the U.S. 100 percent."
Joan Puppe, of East Baltimore, said she is "disappointed in Congress" because its support for the president is not strong enough.
"I think we have to have enough confidence in the president to know that he's not gonna be just trigger-happy," she said. "He needed that vote of confidence to boost his image in the eyes of other world leaders and Saddam Hussein."
Rabbi Murray Saltzman, who heads the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, has a more personal stake in the conflict. His 32-year-old son, Joshua, is an Israeli citizen who is studying to become a rabbi.
"He's deeply concerned. They are on a high state of alert," Saltzman said. "It's so terrifying."
Saltzman said the temple had been offering prayers for a peaceful end to the conflict since Friday when the Sabbath began at sundown.
"We have the capacity to resolve our problems without destroying each other," he said. "I do not like to see Americans die for the liberation of Kuwait. Kuwait was never a society that offered great hope for human dignity. I don't think the Moslem world is based on issues that are relative to human dignity.
"I am conflicted all over the place."
At the Gallery near Harborplace yesterday, fear of a possible war and tomorrow's deadline for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to withdraw his troops from Kuwait was present among the afternoon shoppers.
"I think we can work some solution out. I don't want to go to war," said James Grove of Frederick.
Boaz Mandel, an Israeli citizen from Jerusalem who is visiting his sister in Baltimore, said, "Someone has to stop this madman. If the U.S. wouldn't do this, Israel would have to do this anyway. This is a problem all the world has to solve."
Added Brian Golden of Bel Air, "I guess whether or not we should be there is irrelevant at this point. I think the mistake was made when they made the deadline. It's sending the wrong signals if we don't do anything."