Pope Francis is among thousands of bishops, clergy and ministers worldwide praying desperately for the people of Afghanistan as the country falls once more to the Taliban and flawed evacuation efforts descend into deadly chaos.
Speaking after the Angelus, Pope Francis said: “I join in the unanimous concern for the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray with me to the God of peace so that the clamour of weapons ceases and the solutions can be found at the dialogue table. Only in this way will the battered population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – be able to return to their homes, live in peace and safety in full mutual respect.”
Giancarlo La Vella, a missionary with the Barnabites, responsible for Missio Sui Iuris, the independent mission of Afghanistan under direct jurisdiction of the Catholic Church, appealed for peace and for prayers for all the nation’s people.
Speaking to Vatican Radio, he said: “We are living days of great apprehension as we await what happens. My appeal to the listeners of Vatican Radio is to pray...pray, pray, pray for Afghanistan. Thank you.”
Vatican News reported that since the Soviet invasion in 1979, Afghanistan has suffered from violence and war: “Now the country is once again experiencing the suffering caused by armed conflict, forced exile and hunger. The situation is especially difficult for civilians where Barnabite Fr Giovanni Scalese, head of Missio sui iuris, serves by offering a Catholic presence in the Asian country. He urges everyone to draw close spiritually to the people and pray that Lord may save Afghanistan from more suffering and bring them lasting peace.”
More than 250,000 people, 80 per cent of them women and children, have already fled their homes. United Nations secretary genera, Antonio Guterres appealed for peace talks. He also expressed his shock over abuse of women. IThe humanitarian and health situation is worsening by the hour, said Guterres: “Conflicts in urban areas result in continuous carnage, with civilians are paying the highest price.”
Bishops in the US welcomed efforts to provide refuge for the thousands of Afghans who assisted US forces during the 20-year-long war in Afghanistan. The Biden administration launched “Operation Allies Refuge,” an initiative to relocate thousands of Afghans who worked as interpreters and translators during the military campaign and who now fear for their safety.
“We are proud to have the opportunity to welcome and assist those who have kept Americans safe in Afghanistan,” said a statement signed by USCCB President Archbishop José Gomez and Chairman of the USCCB Committee on Migration, Bishop Mario Dorsonville.
“By working with the United States, each of these individuals has put their lives and those of their family and friends at risk. As they now leave everything behind to begin new lives here, the many sacrifices they’ve made should not go unacknowledged.”
In the UK, Parliament has been recalled for one day on Wednesday.
“In the past few hours, a strong earthquake has occurred in Haiti, causing numerous deaths, injuries and extensive material damage. I wish to express my closeness to those dear populations hit hard by the earthquake. As I raise my prayers for the victims to the Lord, I address my word of encouragement to the survivors, hoping that the participatory interest of the international community will move towards them. May the solidarity of all alleviate the consequences of the tragedy.”