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Vatican’s UN nuncio: Strikes on Syria will cause humanitarian disaster

Archbishop Francis A Chullikatt, Vatican nuncio to the United Nations, celebrates a Mass for a peace in Syria at St Patrick's Cathedral in New York (CNS)

Military strikes on Syria are unjustified and will create a far larger humanitarian disaster for people already suffering from hunger, displacement and a critical lack of medical care, said the Vatican nuncio to the United Nations.

During a Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, Archbishop Francis A Chullikatt urged, instead, that world leaders work toward a “cessation of violence, not an escalation of violence” in Syria.

The Mass was celebrated in conjunction with Pope Francis’s request for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for world peace, and particularly for a peaceful resolution to Syria’s civil war.

“A ceasefire, even if only partial, would permit humanitarian assistance to reach at least the hardest hit areas of the country,” Archbishop Chullikatt told those who attended the liturgy.

“Helping Syria means finding political and humanitarian solutions through dialogue and reconciliation, not intrusionary military tactics. As winds of war howl around Syria in this moment, we urge building and restoring peace through all options and alternatives, not yet exhausted. How can we think of military strikes as the only alternative? The end cannot justify the means,” he said.

“How could we possibly remain indifferent to the humanitarian disaster that strikes would leave in their aftermath? Who could take the responsibility for such a calamity? Who will shelter the refugees and displaced, those orphaned and widowed? No less than a third of Syria’s population is already displaced.”

Archbishop Chullikatt said escalating the violence could double the number of Syrians displaced by violence. He suggested that as much as half of the population of Syria will need assistance by the end of 2013.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, António Guterres, recently announced that more than two million Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries since the conflict began in 2011. About a million are reportedly children.

The archbishop called upon worshipers to “urge our leaders, like the king in this Sunday’s parable (Luke 14:25-33), to sit down and consider the consequences of resorting yet again to war, repeating past mistakes. Wars to end wars too easily turn out to be stimuli to further wars.”

Archbishop Chullikatt said Pope Francis understands the “horrific complexities of the situation in Syria,” including the suffering, devastation and pain, especially among civilians. “As pastor of the universal church, Pope Francis admonishes us to be peacemakers, to instil hope, the desire for peace in the hearts of all. With solicitude for the whole world, the Pope exhorts us to stop and to think… before we wound peace any more than it already has been lacerated.”