Papal and priestly views on the Syrian crisis

Matt C. Abbott
September 7, 2013
© Matt C. Abbott
Reproduced with Permission

Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting (Sept. 7) for peace in Syria:

Today, dear brothers and sisters, I wish to make add my voice to the cry which rises up with increasing anguish from every part of the world, from every people, from the heart of each person, from the one great family which is humanity: it is the cry for peace! It is a cry which declares with force: we want a peaceful world, we want to be men and women of peace, and we want in our society, torn apart by divisions and conflict, that peace break out! War never again! Never again war! Peace is a precious gift, which must be promoted and protected.

There are so many conflicts in this world which cause me great suffering and worry, but in these days my heart is deeply wounded in particular by what is happening in Syria and anguished by the dramatic developments which are looming.

I appeal strongly for peace, an appeal which arises from the deep within me. How much suffering, how much devastation, how much pain has the use of arms carried in its wake in that martyred country, especially among civilians and the unarmed! I think of many children will not see the light of the future! With utmost firmness I condemn the use of chemical weapons: I tell you that those terrible images from recent days are burned into my mind and heart. There is a judgment of God and of history upon our actions which are inescapable! Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake. War begets war, violence begets violence....

Let us ask Mary to help us to respond to violence, to conflict and to war, with the power of dialogue, reconciliation and love. She is our mother: may she help us to find peace; all of us are her children! Help us, Mary, to overcome this most difficult moment and to dedicate ourselves each day to building in every situation an authentic culture of encounter and peace. Mary, Queen of Peace, pray for us!

Click here for the text of the pope's full appeal.

Echoing the pope's sentiments is Father Anthony Brankin, a priest of the Archdiocese of Chicago, who wrote (slightly edited):

If we send in our missiles, shells and drones, the Syrian people will surely suffer more than even now. Do those who are crushed by falling buildings or whose arms are blown off suffer less than those who are gassed? How will our bombing of Syria, with perhaps thousands of 'collateral' deaths, teach any lesson about justice and mercy? Will that bring those gassed victims back?

Are we doing this simply to punish Assad? America is now the world's punisher of bad deeds? Who will punish us for our bad deeds - like fifty million dead unborn babies? Is this not what used to be called overweening arrogance?

If it comes to light that it was indeed the rebels who gassed their own countrymen precisely in order to embroil us in the conflict - and if by becoming involved we help the rebels topple Assad - how is it that one more radical Islamist state will help the United States? Or is there something more going on here? It doesn't add up. Is there some other agenda here about which Obama is saying nothing?

Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, adds the following (slightly edited):

Together with the Holy Father, with whom I was privileged to converse right after his strong Angelus message this past Sunday regarding Syria, I am convinced that nations need to do everything possible to avert the use of military force. Moreover, the pope's prayer is for human life; it is a response against the killing of the innocent, a form of violence that should trouble every human conscience.

To be consistent, as the pope and the Church certainly are, we need to respond to the killing of the innocent wherever we find it. Whether it is by a chemical weapon or an abortionist's forceps, whether it is done in the broad light of day or the secrecy of an abortion clinic, the killing of the innocent is to be condemned and stopped.

How we do that is something that has to be determined by each circumstance, and circumstances are often complex. But the resolve with which we respond, and the sacrifices we are willing to make in responding, will be strengthened if we allow ourselves to see the violence.

Many people - and the pope himself - have been stirred to concern because of the pictures, the horrible images, of the people killed in Syria. We have even more people killed by abortion in our country by abortion. As we look at the horrible scenes from Syria, let's also have the courage to see and show the images of those killed by abortion, so that concern for innocent life will not be selective or discriminatory.