A broad spectrum of faiths joined in prayer this weekend, seeking divine help to avoid war in the Persian Gulf.
"God can make a way out of nowhere. He can make hope where there is no hope," the Rev. Michael R. Bean said yesterday from the pulpit of St. Paul AME Church in downtown Columbus, Ohio.
Clergy nationwide urged world leaders to find a peaceful solution to the Persian Gulf crisis. Some offered prayers for U.S. soldiers should war break out after tomorrow's deadline for Iraq to leave Kuwait.
The horrors of war were clearly on the minds of those at the First United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, where the altar was festooned with barbed wire.
New York's Roman Catholic Cardinal John J. O'Connor, participating in the nationwide prayer for peace, recalled watching five men die in Vietnam and said it has haunted him since talk of war in the Persian Gulf began.
"War is not inevitable. Peace and honor and justice is possible. We must pray like we never prayed before and let us pray with our deepest sincerity," he said during Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral.
In California, faithful turned out at churches of all denominations, including a large gathering at St. Vibiana's Roman Catholic Church in downtown Los Angeles. In Redondo Beach, 2000 parishioners attended Mass at St. Lawrence Martyr Catholic Church.
"Inspire their decision so that the crisis in the Middle East is resolved peacefully and all peoples of the world learn to walk in ways of justice, love and peace," the Rev. Michael Lenihan prayed, referring to President Bush and Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.
`Bring us to our senses'
"Bring us all, oh Lord, to our senses," prayed the Rev. Don Adickes, a former Army chaplain and retired colonel, as he closed services at St. Luke's Lutheran Church in the Dallas suburb of Richardson.
Pope John Paul II said in Rome yesterday that world leaders should not give up on a peaceful solution to the gulf crisis and pressed for an international conference to discuss all Middle East problems.
The First Baptist Church of Olympia, Wash., added prayer services today and tomorrow. Yesterday morning, the Rev. Robert Reid stood at the pulpit and waved the church bulletin, which contained a list of prayer requests for family and friends in the Mideast. There were 23 names listed.
"We're not talking about sending troops to the Middle East. We're talking about John, Rowdy, Charles, David and Ralph," Reid said. "Be in prayer for them, if you will."
In Chicago, the Rev. Barry Moriarty asked Catholic parishioners at St. Vincent's to pray for peace. "The reality is that we the people at the beginning of a new year find ourselves moving toward destruction, moving towards carnage, moving toward a loss of lives," Moriarty said.
At synagogues, concern for Israel dominated sermons. Rabbi Steve Weiss of Ahavath Achim Synagogue in Atlanta on Saturday compared Iraqi President Saddam Hussein to the pharaoh of Egypt who enslaved the Jews centuries ago.
"We cannot allow the international community to solve their differences with Saddam Hussein by breaking the back of Israel," Weiss told worshippers at the conservative synagogue.
A Miami rabbi said force was necessary to deal with Saddam.
"Forgive me, people. You're going to fight him now or you're going to fight him later," said Richard J. Margolis, associate rabbi of Temple Emanu-E1 in Miami Beach, at a Friday evening service.