ROME—Hours after the United States launched 59 missiles at a military base of the Syrian government, trying to block its ability to deliver chemical weapons, the Catholic bishop of war-torn Aleppo denounced what he called the “reckless” action, claiming it opens “new disturbing scenarios for all.”
“The pope and the Holy See are not heard,” said Syrian Bishop Georges Abou Khazen, Vicar of Aleppo for Latin-rite Catholics, referring to the long-standing position from the Vatican against widening the Syrian conflict.
“There are those who want this dirty war to continue,” Khazen said.
The missiles were launched, at the direction of President Donald Trump, as a response to a massacre in the Syrian town of Idlib earlier this week, where an attack employing chemical weapons left over 80 civilians dead.
The United States government is convinced that the attack was perpetrated by President Bashar al-Assad, though some observers disagree.
“One thing that baffles, in the face of the U.S. military attack on Syrian territory, is the speed with which it was decided and carried out, without any adequate investigation into the tragic massacre with chemical weapons,” said Khazen said.
The prelate said he can picture Turkish president Recep Erdogan rejoicing over the intervention, “decided and accomplished without taking any account of voices calling for an independent investigation into what happened in Idlib.”
Erdogan did, in fact, celebrate the attack, saying that he “welcomed the operation.” However, he also said that it wasn’t sufficient.
Russia, on the other hand, a longtime ally of al-Assad, called for an urgent UN Security Council meeting, defining the attack on the Syrian base as “reckless.”
From the beginning, Pope Francis has strongly opposed a foreign-led military action in Syria. Early on in his pontificate, on the eve of what could have been a U.S.-led invasion into the Middle Eastern nation, he called for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in the country.
Russian President Vladimir Putin credited the pontiff for stopping the military action back then.
Much has changed since then, yet the Vatican’s stance on the six-year long war hasn’t.
Cardinal Angelo Comastri, Archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica and Vicar General for the Vatican City State, said Friday that “violence is never a victory, no one ever wins. War is a defeat of humanity and doesn’t resolve problems.
“It’s through dialogue that conflicts are resolved,” he said talking to TV2000, the network of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.
Also addressing the U.S. bombing, Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai, India, said, “My heart is deeply troubled.
“The children of Asia cry out for the children of Syria, pleading with God to save the Syrian children from this senseless slaughter,” Gracias told Crux.
The president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, Gracias also lamented Tuesday’s attack, when dozens of civilians, many of them children, lost their lives, defining it as an example of “man’s inhumanity to man.”
“As the spiritual leader of the Church in Asia, I join my voice with that of the international community in calling for an end to all hostilities and a return to the path of peaceful negotiation,” Gracias said. “Dialogue and non-violence are the only true arms that will bring back peace to Syria.”
Syriac Catholic Patriarch Ignace Joseph Younan, like Khazen, regretted the fact that the U.S. took action before the United Nations had the opportunity to conduct an “honest investigation” into what had occurred in Idlib.
“The agglomerate media and the supremacist policy of the USA just want the killing and destroying conflict in Syria to continue, primarily to kill whatever attempts [there are] to resolve the bloody crisis,” Younan, told Catholic News Service, news agency of the United States Bishops’ Conference.
“The Syrian army was fighting successfully to end the bloody conflict going on for long. It did not need any military intervention that would be condemned by international agencies, such as using chemicals,” he said.
Syrian officials said the U.S. attack was a “blatant aggression,” “shortsighted,” “reckless” and “irresponsible.” They also said that nine civilians died as a result of it.
Franciscan friars in Assisi joined the chorus of Catholic leaders condemning the attack. With a statement released on Friday, they said the war in Syria amounts to “carnage upon carnage.”
“War is the face of evil,” said the statement. “The international community has the duty to stop the violence. It is the duty of us all.”
Caritas Italy and Pax Christi, an international Catholic movement for peace, are calling for a day of fasting and prayer for Syria, set for Wednesday 12, on the vigil of the Easter Tridium.
It’s a day for “not forgetting, to live the passion and cross of so many innocent in the mystery of the Passion of Christ, under the light of Easter home.”
Their statement inviting people to the day of prayer collects quotes from a Pope Francis homily back in 2014, marking the 100th anniversary of WWI.
“Today, too, the victims are many … How is this possible?” Francis said at the time, at the Military Memorial of Redipuglia. “It is so because in today’s world, behind the scenes, there are interests, geopolitical strategies, lust for money and power, and there is the manufacture and sale of arms, which seem to be so important!
“And these plotters of terrorism, these schemers of conflicts, just like arms dealers, have engraved in their hearts, ‘What does it matter to me?’”