POPE FRANCIS RENEWS CALL FOR PEACE IN SYRIA
In this Sunday’s Angelus prayer, the Pope spoke out against “the increase in violence in a war between brothers”
vatican insider staff
After the recitation of the Angelus, Pope Francis renewed his call for peace in Syria. “It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.” The Holy Father called on the International Community to do everything in its power to help the “beloved Syrian nation” find a solution to the ongoing conflict. At the end of his remarks, Pope Francis lead all those listening in a prayer to Mary, Queen of Peace.
Below, please find Vatican Radio’s translation of Pope Francis appeal for Syria:
With great suffering and concern I continue to follow the situation in Syria. The increase in violence in a war between brothers, with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice that the clatter of arms may cease. It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue.
From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my closeness in prayer and solidarity with all the victims of this conflict, with all those who suffer, especially children, and I invite you to keep alive the hope of peace. I appeal to the international community that itself more sensible to this tragic situation and make every effort to help the beloved Syrian nation find a solution to a war that sows destruction and death.
In his Angelus address on Sunday, Pope Francis spoke about the words of Jesus from the day’s Gospel: “Strive to enter through the narrow gate.”
The Holy Father noted that Jesus was responding to the question of how many people will be saved. But, the Pope said, “it is not important to know how many are saved. Rather, it is important to know what is the path of salvation.” Jesus Himself is the gate, a gate “that allows us to enter into God’s family, into the warmth of the house of God, of communion with Him. This gate is Jesus Himself.”
Pope Francis emphasised that “the gate that is Jesus is never closed . . . it is always open and open to everyone, without distinction, without exclusions, without privileges.” Jesus, he continued, does not exclude anyone. Some people might feel excluded because they are sinners – but Pope Francis definitively rejected this idea. “No,” he said, “you are not excluded! Precisely for that reason you are preferred, because Jesus prefers the sinner, always, in order to pardon him, to love him. Jesus is waiting for you, to embrace you, to pardon you.”
We are called to enter the gate that is Jesus. “Don’t be afraid to pass through the gate of faith in Jesus,” Pope Francis said. Don’t be afraid “to let Him enter more and more into our lives, to go out of our selfishness, our being closed in, our indifference toward others.”
Jesus speaks about a narrow gate not because it is a “torture chamber,” but “because it asks us to open our hearts to Him, to recognize ourselves as sinners, in need of His salvation, His forgiveness, His love, needing the humility to accept His mercy and to be renewed by Him.”
Finally, the Holy Father emphasised that Christianity is not a “label” – it is a way of life. Christians must not be Christians in name only: “Not Christians, never Christians because of a label!” he said. He called us to be true Christians, Christians at heart. “To be Christian,” said Pope Francis, “is to live and witness to the faith in prayer, in works of charity, in promoting justice, in doing good. For the narrow gate which is Christ must pass into our whole life.”
At the conclusion of his Angelus, the Holy Father greeted the many pilgrims from around the world who had gathered in Saint Peter’s Square, with special greetings for a number of groups from Italy and Brazil, and for priests and seminarians from the Pontifical North American College. Noting that many people are nearing the end of their summer break, he offered best wishes for a peaceful and committed return to normal daily life.
VATICAN AMBASSADOR: WORLD MUST HELP END SYRIA CRISIS
By Staff Reporter on Thursday, 22 August 2013
The Vatican ambassador to Syria said the international community must help find a political solution to the “serious crisis” continuing in the country.
Speaking to Vatican Radio on Wednesday after alleged chemical attacks outside Damascus, Archbishop Mario Zenari described the images circulating on the internet and television as “truly shocking.”
The images, which could not be immediately verified, triggered calls for an independent investigation. Syrian opposition forces said more than 1,000 people died in the attacks; other activists put the number in the hundreds.
Syrian state television denied government forces had used poison gas and said the accusations were intended to distract a team of United Nations (UN) chemical weapons experts currently in Syria. The UN scheduled a special meeting that afternoon to discuss the incident.
“People here are fed up with the war,” Archbishop Zenari said. “They are crying out to the international community to say, ‘Help us so that this war would end immediately. We have had enough; we can’t take it anymore. We can’t continue like this.’”
In late July, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said more than 100,000 people had been killed in the Syrian civil war, which began in March, 2011. More than 1.7 million people are estimated to have fled to neighbouring countries since the start of the conflict.
CHRISTIANS IN THE MIDDLE EAST UNANIMOUSLY OPPOSE POTENTIAL RAID ON SYRIA
Patriarchs and leaders of religious communities from Baghdad to Jerusalem are opposed to a potential American naval missile attack. Fr. Dall’Oglio’s community in Syria is also opposed to military intervention
All Christian communities in the Middle East are unanimous in their opposition to military action, which the U.S., Britain and France are considering taking against Syria, with the backing of Turkey and the Arab League. The raids would be in response to the use of chemical weapons by President Assad’s army. Churches are adamant that military action would exacerbate problems rather than bring an end to the two-and-a-half-year war that has been tearing Syria apart.
The strongest signs of opposition came from Deir Mar Musa, the Syrian monastery founded by the missing Jesuit priest Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio and made headlines. Fr. Dall’Oglio was kidnapped about a month ago in Raqqa. The monastery can certainly not be accused of complicity with the Assad regime. “We are in a phase of extreme suffering. We hope that Western countries assume a right position before this tremendous crisis in Syria. The ‘right’ position is to reject all forms of violence, stop the weapons, not to put one against the other, defending and protecting human rights,” Fr. Jacques Mourad, head of the monastic community (since Fr. Dall’Oglio’s kidnapping) told Fides news agency. Sister Houda Fadoul, who founded the women’s community in Dei Mar Musa, was even more frank in her statement to Fides: “We cannot accept or appreciate an armed intervention of foreign powers. We continue in our mission which is to raise to God spiritual worship, especially to educate young people to dialogue and peace.”
Syro-Catholic Patriarch Youssef III Younan’s comment about the possible raid, published on the terrasanta.net website, was even tougher: “Instead of helping the various parties involved in the conflict find a path to reconciliation, begin reform talks based on a pluralist system of government, these powers have been arming rebels, inciting violence and poisoning relations between Sunnis and Shiites even further. The West thinks that with a Sunni government democracy will replace the dictatorship but this is just a big illusion: imposing a regime change by force, without safeguarding secular parties, will lead to a worse conflict than the one in Iraq.” Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako in Baghdad, also spoke of a potential “disaster”. The US-led military intervention against Syria would be “a disaster. It would be like a volcano erupting with an explosion meant to destroy Iraq, Lebanon, Palestine. And maybe someone wants this,” he said to Fides news agency. The Chaldean Patriarch referred to his own country as an example: “After 10 years of the so-called ‘coalition of the willing’, that overthrew Saddam our Country is still battered by bombs, security problems, by the instability of the economic crisis.”
The Maronite Patriarch, Bechara Rai, also shared his thoughts a few days ago in an interview with Vatican Radio: “Everything that is going on in the Middle East – be it in Egypt, Syria or Iraq – is a two-dimensional war. The war in Iraq and Syria is between Sunnis and Shiites; in Egypt, it’s between fundamentalists, including the Muslim Brotherhood and the moderates. These wars are never-ending but – I hate to have to say it – there are countries, Western especially, but also Eastern ones that are fuelling these conflicts. A solution to all these problems needs to be found,” Patriarch Bechara Rai said.
The Custodian of the Holy Land in Jerusalem, Fr. Pierbattista Pizzaballa, also expressed his own deep concerns in an interview with the Franciscan Media Center. He said the images coming from Syria are atrocious and speak for themselves. But knowing the Middle East, it is hard to know who does what. The international political community needs to press for immediate solutions. When violence in used, everyone is to blame, he said.
SYRIAN-BORN PATRIARCH: ‘ENOUGH WITH THE INTERVENTION’
By Doreen Abi Raad
Catholic News Service
BEIRUIT (CNS) — Syrian-born Melkite Catholic Patriarch Gregoire III Laham warned against armed intervention in his country, saying, “It has brought us to the tragedy we are now living in Syria.”
Speaking to Catholic News Service by phone Aug. 27 from the patriarchal summer residence in Ain Traz, Lebanon, the patriarch said such a step “would be a tragedy, a tragedy, a tragedy — for the whole country and the whole Middle East.”
“Enough with the intervention,” he said.
“It is fueling hatred, fueling criminality, fueling inhumanity, fueling fundamentalism, terrorism — all these things are the fruit of intervention. Enough!”
“Surely, it will spread like a world war,” he said.
The patriarch lamented the U.S. decision to postpone again a meeting with Russia aimed at preparing for a peace conference on Syria.
“The Holy Father was very clear on Aug. 25,” the patriarch said, referring to Pope Francis’ call for peace in Syria during the Sunday Angelus, when the pontiff said, “It is not clashes, but an ability to meet and to dialogue that offers prospects for a hope of resolving the problems.”
“This is the real voice to be heard, and not the voice of weapons and interventions and of warships,” Patriarch Laham said.
“Instead of trying to change the (Syrian) government, help the government to change. We are all for change. We are all for reforms. But not in this way, with blood.”
The patriarch said external intervention “is destroying the whole sense of community, of friendship of love between peoples, of conviviality, of living together, Christians and Muslims.”
“Why send weapons? Why send criminals?” the patriarch asked, noting that Syria is “now a place for every criminal in the world,” referring to fighters coming into Syria from other countries.
“Why send people to fight? Why bring people from abroad? It is fueling hatred among the people.”
The patriarch said the Syrian opposition had the right to “speak to the government and ask what they have to ask.”
“But criminals coming from outside, why?”
Patriarch Laham, who divides his time between Syria and the patriarchate in Lebanon, said he was happy to be among the people in Syria, but he stressed they are “living in fear, in a very uncertain situation.”
“Every place in Damascus and in Syria is unsafe. There is chaos and insecurity in all places,” he said.
On Aug. 26, the patriarch said, a mortar shell hit between the Melkite and the neighboring Armenian Orthodox patriarchates in Damascus. On the same day, another mortar shell destroyed the entrance of the Syrian Orthodox Patriarchate in the same neighborhood.
“This is very harsh and very tragic,” he said.
“We pray, we pray, because clearly the key to peace in the Middle East is related to a political and peaceful solution of the crisis in Syria. Thus, the key to the solution of the Palestinian conflict is now related to peace in Syria.
“Peace in Syria and in Palestine is the key for peace in the Middle East and the whole world,” he said.
SYRIA IS NOW ‘A FACTORY CHURNING OUT NOTHING BUT DEATH, DESTRUCTION AND SUFFERING’, SAYS ARCHBISHOP
By Staff Reporter on Thursday, 1 August 2013
The Vatican nuncio to Syria has said that the war in Syria is like a factory churning out nothing but death, destruction and suffering.
Archbishop Mario Zenari said that even though the Vatican was unable to confirm recent reports that a Jesuit priest had been kidnapped in Syria, the nuncio said hundreds of innocent people there find themselves abducted for political leverage or economic extortion.
Kidnappings in Syria represent “a very, very painful wound that deeply harms the nation and the Syrian people,” he said.
Italian Jesuit Fr Paolo Dall’Oglio, 59, who had spent more than 30 years promoting Muslim-Christian dialogue in Syria, was reportedly missing.
News reports said acquaintances had been unable to reach him by phone, and Reuters reported that militants with links to al-Qaida kidnapped the priest on Monday while he was walking in the northern Syrian city of al-Raqqah.
Archbishop Zenari said in an interview with Vatican Radio on Tuesday that sometimes the priest would inform him of his whereabouts, but that this time he had heard nothing. He said: “First of all, I’d want to know if he really was in Syria the last few days, and then I would wait to have information that was more definitive.”
The Jesuit province in Italy told the Vatican press hall it was unable to confirm whether Father Dall’Oglio had been kidnapped.
“It’s too soon to say,” Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini, vice director of the press hall, told journalists on Tuesday. He said that the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs was looking into the matter.
Father Dall’Oglio was well-known and very well-respected in Syria, even though he may have held “positions that not everyone shared,” Archbishop Zenari said.
The priest reportedly supported the rebel insurrection against President Bashar Assad. The priest was expelled by Syrian authorities last year for reportedly helping people injured by government crackdowns.
Twenty years ago, Father Dall’Oglio turned a dilapidated sixth-century monastery in the desert of western Syria into a center for Muslim-Christian interfaith dialogue; it was staffed by Catholic and Orthodox nuns and priests.
“He is truly a man of virtue, a Jesuit of great talent and a person who loves Syria,” Archbishop Zenari said.
The archbishop said the latest U.N. figures estimate the two-year civil war creates some 5,000 victims a month, and about 6,000 people flee the country every day.
Those unable to leave face skyrocketing prices, unemployment and continued suffering, he said.
The conflict, “besides bringing death and destruction, has truly become a manufacturing plant of countless miseries,” he said. He urged the world’s nations to help end “this infernal cycle” of violence, kidnappings and casualties.
SYRIA: CHALDEAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ALEPPO SAYS “NO” TO MILITARY INTERVENTION
“This is what we hope for: An international effort that will help dialogue and not make war,” the Chaldean Catholic Bishop of Aleppo told “Vatican Radio”. Meanwhile, Italy’s foreign affairs minister says there has been some faint contact with missing Jesuit priest Paolo Dall’Oglio and Italian journalist Domenico Quirico
vatican insider staff
“If there were a military intervention, I think this would lead to a world war,” said Mgr. Antoine Audo, Chaldean Bishop of Aleppo and President of Caritas Syria in an interview with Vatican Radio. The bishop stressed that this risk is palpable again in Syria and that things are not that easy.
As UN inspectors investigating Syria’s alleged use of chemical weapons meet with civilians affected by chemical agents during last Wednesday’s toxic gas attacks in the suburbs of the Syrian capital Damascus, Mgr. Audo called for “real dialogue between the parties in conflict” find a solution to this war that is sowing destruction and death.” He also said he hoped for an end to the fighting, so that “people will be free to move around, travel, communicate (and) work.”
According to Caritas Syria’s president, everyone is saying the situation is worst in Aleppo. In Damascus it is apparently still possible to travel and use the airport to get to Lebanon, whereas in Aleppo you can’t move. Many have fled to the Syrian coast, where things are generally calmer.
Meanwhile, the Free Youth Committee in Raqqa, which is linked to the Syrian opposition, told Fides news agency: “We know with certainty that Fr. Paolo is in serious danger. Speaking in a politics forum on Italy’s Radical Radio, this morning, Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino talked about the kidnappings of Jesuit priest Fr. Paolo Dall’Oglio and Italian newspaper La Stampa’s Syria correspondent, Domencio Quirico. She said there had been some faint and confused contact with them. She added that the situation on the ground in Syria complicates things further as there is inconsistent leadership among the various groups, making it very difficult to know who to address.
POPE, JORDANIAN KING SAY DIALOGUE ONLY HOPE FOR SYRIA
By Cindy Wooden on Thursday, 29 August 2013
Dialogue and negotiations are “the only option for putting an end to the conflict and violence” in Syria, said Pope Francis and Jordan’s King Abdullah II.
As Western leaders expressed strong convictions that the Syrian government carried out a chemical weapons attack against its own citizens and vowed to take action, Pope Francis met King Abdullah and Queen Rania at the Vatican.
Jordan borders Syria and hosts hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees who have fled the fighting that began in March 2011 in an attempt to oust President Bashar Assad.
The king and queen’s meeting with Pope Francis was arranged hastily after tensions grew in the Middle East over the reported atrocities in Syria and the unrest in Egypt, with the Pontiff breaking off from his holiday to host the visit.
In a statement issued after the meeting, the Vatican said that the Pope and king “reaffirmed that the path of dialogue and negotiation is the only option for putting an end to the conflict and violence that each day cause the loss of many human lives, especially among the unarmed population.”
Pope Francis, with an interpreter, spent 20 minutes speaking alone with King Abdullah and Queen Rania before meeting the seven members of the Jordanian delegation. The king and three aides then held a working meeting with Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states.
When the king arrived, Pope Francis greeted him in English, saying, “Welcome, Your Majesty.”
While reporters were present before the private meeting began, King Abdullah told the pope, “I have tremendous respect for what you are doing and for what the Catholic Church does.”
The Vatican statement said that during the meetings with the Pope and with officials of the Vatican Secretariat of State, the two sides also discussed the problem of stability throughout the Middle East, Israeli-Palestinian relations and the question of the status of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Muslims and Jews.
The Vatican, the statement said, also expressed appreciation for the king’s commitment to promoting interreligious dialogue and his decision to convoke a conference in September about the challenges facing Christians in the Middle East.
Although the statement indicated a broad range of topics were touched upon, the meeting drew international attention because of the situation in Syria.
Speaking on the PBS NewsHour programme, US President Barack Obama said he was convinced the Syrian government carried out chemical weapons attacks in late August; the government had blamed rebels, but Obama said, “We do not believe that, given the delivery systems – using rockets – that the opposition could have carried out these attacks.”
If Assad’s government is responsible, he said, “then there needs to be international consequences”.
The British government asked the UN Security Council to consider authorising military action against the Syrian government, but Russia objected and no resolution was passed. A team of UN weapons inspectors is still investigating the site of the alleged chemical weapons attack.
Archbishop Maroun Lahham, patriarchal vicar for Jordan in the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem, told Vatican Radio the meeting of Pope Francis and King Abdullah was an opportunity for both of them to discuss ways to encourage peace in Syria “in the midst of all these threats we are hearing. With what is happening, Jordan – although it is a small country – can play an important role for peace in Syria”.
Archbishop Lahham said it would be difficult to find anyone in the Middle East who would believe that the United States and members of the European Union would use military force to defend the weak.
“No one believes that,” he said. “Everyone looks after their own political and economic interests.”
“We don’t want this desire for war applied in Syria,” he said. “We hope that the voice of reason – and for us, the voice of faith – prevails and that a political solution to the Syrian crisis will be found.”
In a statement published on the patriarchate’s website, Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal pleaded with the United States and its allies to be cautious and think again before taking any military action.
“Our friends in the West and the United States have not been attacked by Syria,” he said. “With what legitimacy do they dare attack a country? Who appointed them as ‘policemen of democracy’ in the Middle East?”
“Why declare war when UN experts have not yet delivered the definitive findings on the chemical nature of the attack and the formal identity of its agents?” the patriarch asked. “We witness here a logic reminiscent of the Iraq war preparation in 2003. Do not repeat the ‘comedy’ of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq when there were none.”