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Tens of thousands of people filled St. Peter's Square at the Vatican for a four-hour Syria peace vigil late Saturday, answering Pope Francis' call for a grassroots cry for peace that was echoed by Christians and non-Christians alike in Syria and around the world.
The Vatican estimated that about 100,000 took part in the gathering at the square, making it one of the largest rallies in the West against proposed U.S.-led military action in Syria following the alleged Aug. 21 chemical weapons attack near Damascus.
Francis spent most of the vigil in silent prayer, but during his speech he pleaded for peace and denounced those who are "captivated by the idols of dominion and power," and destroy God's creation through war.
"This evening, I ask the Lord that we Christians, and our brothers and sisters of other religions and every man and woman of good will, cry out forcefully: Violence and war are never the way to peace!" he said.
"May the noise of weapons cease!" the Roman Catholic religious leader said. "War always marks the failure of peace. It is always a defeat for humanity."
President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have been working rigorously to convince world leaders, Congress and the American public that it is necessary to conduct limited strikes on Syria in order to send a message that chemical weapons use is unacceptable.
The Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad denies accusations that it used sarin gas on civilians in an attack that allegedly killed 1,400 people, many of them children.
Al Jazeera and The Associated Press
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