Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, give a final blessing at an Oct. 24 ecumenical prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. (CS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Rai, Maronite patriarch, and Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, give a final blessing at an Oct. 24 ecumenical prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington. (CS BY JACLYN LIPPELMANN)

Nearly 200 people gathered with Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the apostolic nuncio to the United States, and other faith leaders at an Oct. 24 ecumenical prayer service at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington to pray for Christians in the Middle East.

Archbishop Pierre, greeting his “dear brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ,” said, “We stand here as brothers and sisters in faith to show our love and spiritual unity with one another in prayer and our shared work for peace.”

The prayer service was held as part of the Oct. 24-26 In Defense of Christians Summit in Washington. The summit featured religious and civil leaders working to protect Christians and preserve Christianity in the countries of the Holy Land and to promote religious liberty throughout the Middle East.

The prayer service included veneration of the Cross, veneration of a Maronite icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Old and New Testament readings and prayers offered in English, Aramaic, Syriac and other languages of the Middle East.

Father Andre Mahanna, a member of the IDC’s religious advisory board who served as master of ceremonies at the event, noted that “tonight’s prayer service includes prayers from at least seven Christian denominations native to the Middle East.”

Reminding those at the prayer service they came together to pray “in the spirit of compassion and the deepest trust,” Archbishop Pierre said the ecumenical prayer service was being held “in unity with and on behalf of all in the Middle East.”

“We pray for the innocent victims in the world and for those who make the ultimate sacrifice for their faith in Christ,” he added.

Joining Archbishop Pierre in offering the prayers were His Beatitude, Patriarch Moran Mar Bechara Boutros al-Rai, the Maronite patriarch of Antioch and all the East; His Beatitude, Patriarch John X, the Greek Orthodox patriarch of Antioch and all the East; representatives of the Roman, Melkite and Maronite rites of the Catholic Church; and members of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Syriac Orthodox Church, the Antiochian Orthodox Church, and the Coptic Church.

Msgr. W. Ronald Jameson, rector of the cathedral, said the “holy gathering” was “a sign of great hope.”

“We entrust to almighty God the Father all the good people of the Middle East – Jews, Christians and Muslims – and all people of good will,” Msgr. Jameson said. “We put our trust, hope, faith and love in God and pray for the Christian martyrs who are dying for their faith today.”

The Rev. Johnnie Moore, an author who has served as a faith advisor to both President Donald Trump and former presidential candidate Ben Carson, said the gathering “is an answer to the prayer of Our Lord, ‘that they may be one as we are one’.” (John 17:22)

“Despite the difference in our liturgies and our histories and our countries and our languages and our politics and our positions and all the things that divide us, we gather here and are united” in prayer for peace in the Middle East, Rev. Moore said.

He added that out of “respect for the shared roots of our faith,” Christians of different denominations gathered to pray “to rebuild the heartland of the Church in the East.”

The gathering also included a concert of sacred music by Abeer Nehme, an internationally known Lebanese singer who performs music from the Syriac-Maronite, Syriac-Orthodox, and Byzantine traditions.

Father Mahanna said that Nehme’s “beautiful voice comes from a land injured by hate.”