ROME— A day after condemning the bombardments in Aleppo, Syria, Pope Francis regretted that “the logic of arms and oppression, hidden interests and violence” continues to wreak devastation in this country and Iraq, and that despite the efforts, the world hasn’t been able to end this “exasperating suffering.”
“Violence begets violence, and we have the impression of being caught up in a spiral of arrogance and inertia from which there is no escape,” Pope Francis said talking to Catholic charitable aid workers who operate in Syria, Iraq and bordering countries.
The evil of violence, he continued, should challenge the world: “Why, even at the cost of untold damage to persons, property and the environment, does man continue to pursue abuses of power, revenge and violence?”
Yet according to Francis, the only answer to such human evil is God’s mercy.
“The limit imposed upon evil, of which man is both perpetrator and victim, is ultimately the Divine Mercy,” the pontiff said quoting his predecessor, St. John Paul II.
For the many suffering Syrians and Iraqis, either in their countries or living afar as refugees, the Church “beholds the face of her Lord in his Passion.”
Humanitarian aid workers, Francis said, are for those suffering a “sign that evil has limits and does not have the last word.” Backing them, he added, are the many “unnamed people” who are praying and interceding in silence for the victims of conflicts, particularly for the children and the weak.
The pontiff also expressed his particular concern for the Christian communities in the Middle East who suffer the consequences of violence and “look to the future with fear.”
“In the midst of so much darkness, these Churches hold high the lamp of faith, hope and charity,” he said.
Close to 40 Catholic charitable organizations participated in the Sept. 29 gathering in Rome, the fifth summit on the Syrian and Iraqi humanitarian crisis, organized by Cor Unum, the Vatican’s office directed with coordinating the organizations and charitable initiatives of the Catholic Church. Also taking part was Staffan de Mistura, Special Envoy to Syria of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
It was the first time the pope opened the talks.
Although the meeting was held behind closed doors and only Francis’s remarks were made public, through its Twitter account Cor Unum quoted de Mistura saying that “the pope is heard, he’s done the right thing by talking of the bombardments.”
According to Monsignor Giampietro Dal Toso, Cor Unum’s secretary, in these two countries the Church brings assistance to 4.5 million people, with 12,000 people working in the region.
“It’s a mission on the field that sees the Catholic Church in the first line, with an investment of $207 million in 2015 alone,” he said in an article published this week at the Vatican’s newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano.
In Syria, the victims of the ongoing war reach at least 270,000, according to the United Nations. In addition, 8.7 million people have been displaced, together with 3.7 million in Iraq.
In his Thursday’ remarks, Francis reiterated his appeals for peace, saying: “I will never tire of asking the international community for greater and renewed efforts to achieve peace throughout the Middle East, and of asking not to look the other way.”
Yet ending the conflict, he said, is not only in the hands of those in power, but it’s a responsibility of men and women around the world, because “each of us can and must become a peacemaker, because every situation of violence and injustice is a wound to the body of the whole human family.”
This, he said, is his daily prayer to God: peace, achievable if those who have political responsibility renounce their own interests in favor of the greater good. In this regard, he thanked the United Nations for its work supporting and mediating among governments, so an agreement can be reached soon, “finally” giving priority to “defenseless populations.”