DAMASCUS - Hundreds of Syrian Christians gathered in Damascus on Saturday to pray for peace and protest against possible US military intervention, responding to a call by Pope Francis for a day of prayer and fasting.
During a six-hour service at the al-Zeitouna Church, an ornate Roman Catholic cathedral in the capital's ancient quarter, Syrian-born Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham appealed to Christians to stay in Syria despite the war.
Syria's conflict has grown increasingly sectarian since it started as a peaceful uprising in March 2011 and then evolved into an armed rebellion against President Bashar Assad.
Majority Sunni Muslims dominate the uprising while minorities have generally stuck with the government, which is dominated by members of Assad's Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.
Pope Francis, who two days ago called a military solution in Syria "a futile pursuit", led the world's 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in a global day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, the Middle East and the world on Saturday.