Thursday, January 16, 2014

Pope expresses hope for an end to Syrian conflict this year

Pope Francis addressed ambassadors to the Holy See at the Vatican. In a wide-ranging address he welcomed “the resumption of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis”.  Photograph: AP Photo/L’Osservatore RomanoPope Francis on Monday expressed the hope that the conflict in Syria “will finally come to an end this year” and that this month’s Geneva 2 conference would mark the beginning of a peace process. 

The pope made that observation in the context of the traditional papal address given each January to the diplomatic corps in the Holy See.

In what was a ‘state-of-the-world’ address, the pope touched on a vast range of subjects that included hunger, climate change, migration, the persecution of Christians in Africa and the Middle East as well as conflict and social unrest not only in Syria but also in the Central African Republic, Mali, Sudan, Egypt and Iraq.

Recalling that 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the first World War, he said that even today “the moral force of law” must prevail over the “material force of arms” if mankind is to avoid the “needless carnage” that marked the war.

Peace process

Looking to the year ahead “with confidence”, the pope has this to say in relation to Syria: “I continue to be hopeful that the conflict in Syria will finally come to an end . . . What is presently needed is a renewed political will to end the conflict. In this regard I express my hope that the Geneva 2 conference, to be held on January 22nd, will mark the beginning of the desired peace process.”

One of the key moments in the forthcoming papal year will be the pope’s pilgrimage to the Holy Land in May. In that context he welcomed “the resumption of peace talks between Palestinians and Israelis” and called on both parties to “take courageous decisions aimed at finding a just and lasting solution”.

He added: “I myself intend to make a pilgrimage of peace to the Holy Land in the course of the year. The exodus of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa continues to be a source of concern. They want to be a part of the social, political and cultural life of countries which they helped to build.”

Iran dialogue
While the pope bemoaned tensions in the Middle East, in particular in Lebanon and Egypt, he also acknowledged “the significant progress made in the dialogue between Iran and the group of five plus one on the nuclear issue”.

He said, however, that peace remained threatened by “by every denial of human dignity”, in particular by hunger.

“We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world immersed in what I have often termed the throwaway culture,” he added.

Finally, as he reflected on Italy’s “boat people” problem, highlighted by last October’s tragedy off the island of Lampedusa, the pope expressed the hope that austerity-plagued Italy would “overcome present difficulties and regain its long standing climate of constructive social creativity”.

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