Pope Francis has lamented the “terrible air of tension” in the world warning that war only brings "death and destruction”.
Francis remarks come days after the United States’ assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, and a pledge by Tehran to take “severe revenge.” In a series of tweets overnight, President Donald Trump says his military is “targeting” 52 Iranian sites if there is an attack on Americans or US assets.
After praying the Sunday Angelus on 5 January in St Peter’s Square, the 83-year-old Roman Pontiff appealed to “all the parties to keep the flame of dialogue and self-restraint burning,” and then called on everyone to pray silently.
“In many parts of the world, there is a terrible air of tension,” Francis said. “War only brings death and destruction.”
These are the Pope’s first public remarks on the Iran-US conflict since the assassination of Soleimani on 3 January, with the papal ambassador in Tehran, Archbishop Leo Boccardi telling Vatican News that Francis has been following the situation and is praying for peace.
Archbishop Boccardi stressed that history teaches how war and weapons never resolve the world’s problems and said the international community must “believe in negotiation.”
He added: “Constructive politics is at the service of peace.”
Throughout his pontificate, the Argentine Pope has rejected any attempt to draw the Church into a “clash of civilisations” between the east and west. He has prioritised building relations with the Muslim world and became the first Pope to visit the Arab Peninsula when he travelled to the United Arab Emirates last year. While in Abu Dhabi he signed a landmark document on Muslim-Christian co-operation with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Dr Ahmed el-Tayeb. Francis has made frequent trips to Muslim-majority countries, including Egypt and Morocco where he has encouraged Catholic communities in those countries to foster dialogue with their Muslim neighbours.