As world leaders attend the G20 summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, Pope Francis has called on them to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means rather than military action.
Pope Francis said they should lay aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution to the problem.
Pope Francis wrote a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is currently hosting the G20 summit, stating that lopsided global interests have blocked a diplomatic course in the Syrian conflict and have led to the “senseless massacre” of innocent people.
The Pope wrote:
"It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding."
“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,”
"Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community."
This letter follows an announcement made by the Vatican earlier this week about a vigil for peace in Syria to be held in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday, and as reported on Digital Journal.
On Thursday, the Vatican outlined its position on Syria to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. Regarding the chemical weapons attack that took place outside Damascus on August 21, the Vatican's Foreign Minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti told the 71 ambassadors:
“Confronted with similar acts one cannot remain silent, and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions make clear what happened and that those responsible face justice.”
While the US and its allies believe the attack was launched by the Syrian government, Mamberti said the main priority was to stop the violence which he said is risking the involvement of other countries and creating “unforeseeable consequences in various parts of the world.”
While not discussing possible US military strikes, Mamberti stressed peace in all facets of a potential solution to the violent conflict.
Mamberti also stressed that the Vatican does not want Syria to be split up along ethnic or religious lines. He said that Syrian minorities — including Christians — should have basic rights guaranteed, including freedom of religion.
The Assad family and many regime officials are Alawites, followers on an offshoot of Shiite Islam. However, the Assad regime has long supported ethnic and religious minorities including Christians, Shiite Muslims, and Kurds. Most of the rebels and their supporters are Sunni Muslims.
The head of the Vatican's Jesuit order, Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, said on Wednesday that military action by the US and France would ultimately punish the Syrian people, saying:
“I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure.” It is not only the Vatican that is making noises against the possible war. The head of the US Bishops' Conference, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, wrote a letter to members of Congress urging them not to resort to military strikes.
He warned that any outside military intervention would be counterproductive, particularly given the lack of international consensus.
Pope Francis was also active on Twitter this week, when he sent many tweets reinforcing his stance, one of which said, "War never again! Never again war!"