- The Washington Times - Monday, March 24, 2003

GAITHERSBURG, Md. At Masses on Sunday, just days after the invasion of Iraq began, Catholics were asked to pray for peace.
The Rev. Michael Fisher spoke to parishioners at St. John Neumann Church in Gaithersburg about St. Augustine's "just war theory," which provides a test for deciding if a war is well-grounded.
According to the war theory, he said the United States shouldn't be fighting for its own gain, but to restore peace, justice and harmony.
"We must have the right intentions," Father Fisher said. "Are our hearts pure?"
Pope John Paul II has criticized the Bush administration's end to diplomacy and Iraq's refusal to accept the United Nations resolutions and his own requests to disarm.
"The Holy Father is challenging us to be sentinels of peace, to move our hearts to a better way, a way of God," Father Fisher said.
Supporters of the effort to remove Saddam Hussein say war is undesirable, but the only solution.
"It's an absolute must that we take him out," said Gene Wyatt, 60, from Montgomery Village, who showed up for the morning Mass. "It's a shame that it has to be done this way."
Still, he said his support for the president is unwavering. Mr. Wyatt served as a Marine in the 1960s and worked for the Army as a civilian for 30 years.
"Sometimes you just have to trust your leaders," he said.
In his homily, Father Fisher asked the parishioners to pray for those serving in Iraq and those working for humanitarian needs.
"The Holy Father is challenging us to be sentinels of peace, to move our hearts to a better way, a way of God."
In the vestibule on a podium, the church keeps a book for parishioners to write in special prayers. In recent weeks, the notes written in the book have begun to ask others to pray for friends or relatives deployed overseas.
One entry read: "Pray for leaders to make the right decisions with care for our lives."
Another: "Please pray for all in the armed forces … that they be safe and could return home promptly. Also for the innocent children and others in Iraq who had no choice but to be there."
Holy Cross Church in Garrett Park also began such a book Saturday afternoon so parishioners can write the names of their loved ones who are in the armed forces or working with humanitarian organizations.
By Sunday, two pages were full of names and special prayers.
"So many people were calling us to ask for prayers," said Monseigneur Vincent Gatto. "We decided to have people write the names in the book in the sanctuary. We called it the 'Book of Heroes.'"
After Mass, Luann Pirone, 43, of Bethesda, entered the name of her former brother-in-law, who is in an airborne division.
"It works," she said. "I'm so glad that they're doing that. The pope has called it a war against humanity, but there are human beings fighting for us over there."

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