The head of the Catholic Church has appealed on Sunday for Christians to pray and fast for Afghanistan as bishops follow suit in urging the faithful to do as such.
In a tweet on Sunday, Pope Francis said that it is the duty of a Christian not to be "indifferent" to what is currently happening in Afghanistan and instead "ask" God for "mercy" through prayer and fasting for those who are suffering there.
"As Christians, the situation in Afghanistan obligates us. In historic moments like this, we cannot remain indifferent. For this reason, I address an appeal to every one to intensify your prayer and practice fasting, asking the Lord for mercy and forgiveness," Pope Francis revealed.
"Now is the time to do it," he stressed. "I'm serious: Intensify prayer and practice fasting, asking the Lord for mercy and forgiveness."
Vatican News said the Pope made his appeal during his regular Sunday Angelus as a means to "show solidarity to the people in Afghanistan." The Pope disclosed that he has been monitoring the situation in Afghanistan "with great concern" and do "share" with those who suffer and mourn the many loses they have experienced there.
The Taliban took over the Afghanistan government on August 15 and the United States withdrew its forces haphazardly the day afterwards, which led to a "crisis" that could have been "prevented as per former Vice President Mike Pence.
"I am following the situation in Afghanistan with great concern. I share in the suffering of those who mourn for the people who lost their lives in the suicide attacks last Thursday, and of those who are seeking help and protection," Pope Francis said.
Two suicide bombers suspected to be members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham detonated themselves on Thursday morning near the Abbey Gate of the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Afghanistan. The series of explosions left at least 12 United States service men dead and 15 injured on top of 60 Afghans killed while hundreds hurt.
Pope Francis prayed for the souls of those who died in the said explosions and commended them "to the mercy of Almighty God." He then expressed gratitude to all those working to help the people in Afghanistan and encouraged everyone to help as well, especially through prayer for dialogue, solidarity, peace, "fraternal coexistence," and for the future of Afghanistan.
"I ask everyone to continue to assist those in need and to pray that dialogue and solidarity may lead to the establishment of peaceful and fraternal coexistence, and offer hope for the future of the country," the Pontiff said.
Following Pope Francis' call for prayers, some members of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops have similarly urged the faithful to pray for Afghanistan.
Bishop W. Shawn Mcknight, USCCB chair of the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions and a member of the National Collections Committee, posted twice in Instagram the need to pray for the besieged country. On Thursday, the bishop asked for prayers "to end the devastating reality" happening in Afghanistan that have led to many casualties and injured. He also prayed for the repose of the souls of those who died during the two explosions.
"Let us pray for an end to the devastating reality we are witnessing in Afghanistan. May the Lord bring peace. Please join me in praying for all the lives lost, including Afghan civilians and U.S. citizens," Mcknight implored.
Mcknight, the prelate of Jefferson City in Missouri, then stressed the next day the "power of prayer" in the face of "helplessness" perceived towards Afghanistan. He aligned it to the feast day of Saint Monica who is renowned to achieve the conversion of her husband and son after praying for them for decades. The bishops underscored that Christians are never "helpless" because of the power of prayer.
"Many have expressed their feelings of helplessness as they follow the news coming from Afghanistan. But Christians are never helpless. Today is the feast day of St. Monica, the mother of St. Augustine. St. Monica exemplified the power of prayer as she unceasingly prayed for her erstwhile wayward son and difficult husband. Her persistent prayers and faith in God paid off. Trust in the power of prayer! Pray for Afghanistan," Mcknight emphasized.
The USCCB released a joint statement last week in response to the "evolving crisis in Afghanistan" through its Committee on International Justice and Peace Chairman Bishop David Malloy and Committee on Migration Chairman Bishop Mario Dorsonville. The bishops acknowledged the "complicated process" involved in the withdrawal of U.S. forces from the said country and raised concerns of "potential maltreatment" faced by vulnerable women and children there.
The bishops also revealed that they have been aiding the government in the evacuation process through its Catholic Charities arm, who assists in Fort Lee, Virginia "in the welcoming and resettlement of SIV applicants and their families." The bishops urged the government to act with "utmost urgency"and the faithful to heed the call of Pope Francis in praying for peace in Afghanistan.
"The government's goal to relocate as many as 30,000 SIV applicants to the United States remains a monumental task that hangs in the balance. We know that time is of the essence to help our brothers and sisters in need, and we call on our government to act with the utmost urgency, considering all available avenues to preserve life. We also join the Holy Father in praying for peace in Afghanistan-'that the clamor of weapons might cease and solutions can be found at the table of dialogue'," the USCCB statement said.
Correction: Bishop McKnight was wrongly identified as USCCB Chairman-elect Committee on National Elections in an earlier version of the report. He clarified to Christianity Daily that he is chair of the Subcommittee on Catholic Home Missions and is a member of the National Collections Committee. An update was made to accurately reflect this information.