Delivering a blessing last Sunday during the Angelus noon prayer from his studio window at the Vatican, Pope Francis issued a strong call to have the violence in Syria ended ‘without delay’.
The blessing comes after one of the bloodiest weeks of aerial bombardment that Syria has ever seen in its years of conflict.
Words of Peace
“The month of February is one of the most violent in seven years of the conflict,” the Pope said.
“In these days, my thoughts have often turned to the beloved and martyred Syria where war has intensified - especially in Eastern Ghouta.
“[There are] hundreds, thousands of civilian victims, children, women, the elderly; hospitals have been struck; people can’t find anything to eat … all of this is inhuman.
“Evil cannot be fought with other evil.
“I renew my heartfelt appeal that the violence ends soon, and that access be created for humanitarian aid - food and medicine - and that the injured and the sick be evacuated.
“Let us pray to God that this happens without delay.”
The Pope’s blessing was followed by a moment of silent prayer and a Hail Mary.
Bombings by government forces have recently intensified in Eastern Ghouta, a suburb east of the Syrian capital, Damascus. This has resulted in the death of nearly 500 people, around 120 of whom were children, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
While the UN Security Council has approved a resolution for a 30-day ceasefire, an Iranian news agency has since quoted a military official saying that attacks on ‘terrorists’ would still continue.
A Constant Fight
Since his election in March 2013, the Pope has continually made the devastating situation in Syria a political and diplomatic priority.
After leading a special liturgy of penance and prayer in St Peter’s Square for Syria and its victims, the Pope wrote to the G7 leaders arguing against a proposed Western military offensive aimed at ejecting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad from power. Ths move has been credited by Russian leader, Vladimir Putin, as one that helped to halt this use of force.
The Pope also helped dozens of Syrian refugees flee from conflict, bringing many back with him to Rome after a day trip to the Greek Island of Lesbos in April 2016. The refugees were then placed under the care of the Community of Sant’Egidio.