Pope Francis called on world leaders attending the G20 summit in Russia to seek peace in Syria through diplomatic means and to lay aside the “futile pursuit” of a military solution.
In a letter to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is hosting the G20 summit, Francis said that lopsided global interests have blocked a diplomatic course in the Syrian conflict and have led to the “senseless massacre” of innocent people.
“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution,” Francis wrote.
The letter follows an announcement earlier this week that the Vatican will host a vigil for peace in Syria in St. Peter’s Square on Saturday.
The Vatican outlined Thursday its position on Syria to ambassadors accredited to the Holy See.
“Confronted with similar acts one cannot remain silent, and the Holy See hopes that the competent institutions make clear what happened and that those responsible face justice,” the Vatican’s Foreign Minister, Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, told the 71 ambassadors regarding the chemical weapons attack that took place outside Damascus on August 21. The US and its allies believe the attack was launched by the Syrian government.
Mamberti said the main priority was to stop the violence which he said is risking the involvement of other countries and creating “unforeseeable consequences in various parts of the world.”
He did not mention possible military strikes by the US, but stressed peace in all facets of a potential solution to the violent conflict.
In addition, Mamberti said the Vatican does not want Syria to be split up along ethnic or religious lines, and that Syrian minorities – including Christians – should have basic rights guaranteed, including freedom of religion.
The Assad regime in Syria has long supported ethnic and religious minorities including Christians, Shiite Muslims, and Kurds. The Assad family and many regime officials are Alawites, followers of an offshoot of Shiite Islam, while most rebels and their supporters are Sunni Muslims.
On Wednesday, the head of the Vatican’s Jesuit order, Rev. Adolfo Nicolas, said that military action by the US and France would ultimately punish the Syrian people.
“I cannot understand who gave the United States or France the right to act against a country in a way that will certainly increase the suffering of the citizens of that country, who, by the way, have already suffered beyond measure,” he said.