Clerics fast here to ease anguish in Balkans

January 09, 1993|By Frank P. L. Somerville | Frank P. L. Somerville,Staff Writer

Leaders of Christian, Jewish and Muslim faith traditions will fast and pray together in an unusual series of religious services in Baltimore and Baltimore County today for an end to the ethnic hostilities and suffering in the Balkans.

The gathering is timed to coincide with a vigil for peace to be led by Pope John Paul II in Assisi, Italy, at which Roman Catholic bishops from all over Europe will be joined by Protestant, Jewish and Muslim leaders.

Baltimore Archbishop William H. Keeler, president of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, planned today's American counterpart of the Assisi meeting.

He invited participation by officers of the Standing Conference of Orthodox Bishops in America, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the Caribbean and North American Area Council of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, the American Muslim Council and the Synagogue Council of America.

Archbishop Keeler, who has been active for many years in Christian ecumenical efforts and Catholic-Jewish relations on the national and international levels, explained that each of the organizations taking part in today's Baltimore vigil is linked to churches, synagogues or mosques in the strife-torn area that was formerly Yugoslavia.

The five national coalitions also co-sponsor continuing religious dialogue with the U.S. Catholic bishops' Committee for Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs.

Expected to join Archbishop Keeler at his residence at 408 N. Charles St. at 1:30 p.m. today are Metropolitan Silas, head of the Greek Orthodox Diocese of New Jersey; the Very Rev. Maximos Moses, chancellor of that Orthodox diocese; the Very Rev. Constantine Monios, rector of Baltimore's Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Annunciation; retired Bishop Herluf Jensen of the New Jersey Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; Imam M. Bashar Arafat of the Islamic Society of Baltimore, representing the AmericanMuslim Council; Rabbi Murray Saltzman of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, representing Rabbi Jerome Davidson, president of the Synagogue Council of America; and Kay Miller, president of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation.

Also expected is a representative of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches.

The participants will make their own arrangements for fasting during the period of the vigil.

They will proceed together to the Greek Orthodox cathedral at 24 W. Preston St., where Metropolitan Silas will lead the group in prayers at 1:45 p.m.

From there, the group will travel to the mosque of the Islamic Society of Baltimore at 6631 Johnnycake Road in Catonsville, where a prayer service in the Muslim tradition will begin at 2:45 p.m.

Imam Arafat will offer his reflections on peacemaking, using Islamic sources.

At 4 p.m., the interfaith group will gather in the synagogue of the Baltimore Hebrew Congregation, Park Heights and Slade avenues, for a traditional Havdallah, the closing of the Sabbath service, led by Rabbi Saltzman.

The vigil for peace will conclude at the Roman Catholic Basilica of the Assumption, Cathedral and Mulberry streets, where the Protestant clergy will join Archbishop Keeler in conducting a prayer service.

This will be followed at 5:30 p.m. by a Mass in the Basilica, to which all of the religious leaders have been invited as the archbishop's guests.

They plan to break their fast together at an evening meal in the archbishop's residence.

Saying that "ecumenical and interreligious relations are very strong in the United States," Archbishop Keeler described himself as encouraged by the desire for interfaith prayers for peace in the Balkans and an end to the suffering of civilian victims of the warfare, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

"The response to our invitation, sent out on Dec. 23 with little time to spare, is excellent," he said.

"It is clear that a number of us want to do something significant, prayerful but manageable, on short notice, to show our support for the peacemaking concerns of Pope John Paul II and the leaders gathering with him this weekend in Assisi."

Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia will represent the U.S. Catholic bishops in Assisi, where the European interfaith group plans to fast and keep watch together through tonight.

Tomorrow morning, the pope will preside at a Eucharistic celebration in Assisi.

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