On Monday, Monsignor Mario Toso, head of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, told Vatican Radio that the war in Syria could escalate into a global conflict, a day after Pope Francisco Bergoglio made an impassioned call for peace, saying, “The Syrian conflict has all the ingredients to explode into a war of global dimensions. The solution to Syria’s problems isn’t an armed intervention. The violence won’t subside and there’s a risk of a conflagration that could extend to other countries”. The comments came after the USA and France sought to build support for strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad‘s régime over allegations it used chemical weapons against its own people on 21 August. According to activists, more than 110,000 people died since the Syrian Civil War began in March 2011. On Saturday, Pope Francisco called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, calling on Christians, believers of other religions, and non-believers to take part.
Pope Francisco called for a day of fasting and prayer around the world next Saturday for peace in Syria, which would include a vigil on St Peter’s Square. On Sunday, he told a crowd of thousands of pilgrims at the Vatican, “May the cry for peace enter the hearts of everyone so that they may all lay down their weapons”. The pope announced that the prayers would begin with a five-hour vigil in St Peter’s Square, telling the international community it should make “every effort” for peace. His call came as the USA and France were making plans for possible air strikes against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s régime over its alleged use of chemical weapons. Pope Francisco said, “My heart is profoundly wounded in these days by what’s happening in Syria and I’m anxious about the prospect of dramatic developments. I condemn with particular force the use of chemical weapons. I still have in my mind and heart the terrible images of the past days. There’s judgement from God and from history on our actions that no one can escape. Weapons and violence don’t lead to peace, war leads to more war. I hope that a chain of commitment for peace will unite all women and men of good will”.
The pope said that he extended his invitation to push for peace in Syria to all Christians and faithful from other religions, as well as non-believers. He announced that Saturday’s prayers in St Peter’s Square will begin at 17.00 UTC (09.00 PDT. 12.00 EDT. 20.00 MSK. 03.00 8 September AEDT) and end at 22.00 UTC (14.00 PDT. 17.00 EDT. 01.00 8 September MSK. 08.00 8 September AEDT), saying, “With all my strength, I call on the warring parties to listen to the voice of their own consciences, not to close themselves in their own interests, but to look on the other as a brother”. The pope’s comments were his first explicit reference to the alleged use of chemical weapons in Syria. In comments immediately following the claims, the Permanent Observer of Holy See to the UN in Geneva cast doubt on the accusations. Archbishop Silvano Maria Tomasi CS told Vatican Radio, “What immediate interest would the government in Damascus have in causing such a tragedy? Who does this inhuman crime really benefit?”
1/2 September 2013
Voice of Russia World Service