On his return journey from his visit to Korea this week, Pope Francis lamented the growing number of conflicts across the globe, saying that we “are now in World War III”. He told journalists on board the papal plane: “Today we are in a world at war everywhere. A man said to me, ‘Father, we are in World War III, but spread out in small pockets everywhere.’ He was right.”
In an extraordinary intervention, the Pope on Monday implied that military action might be necessary to stop the jihadists of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq, though he ruled out the use of bombs. More than 100,000 Christians have been driven from their homes by Islamist terrorists.
He said that he is considering going to northern Iraq to show solidarity with those who have been murdered, raped and exiled by the IS. He added that strong measures were “justified” – so long as these were not the acts of only one country. “In those cases where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is legitimate to stop the unjust aggressor,” he said. “I underscore the verb ‘stop’. I don’t say ‘to bomb’ or to ‘make war’, but to ‘stop’.”
We should be “frightened at the level of cruelty that has become the norm”, Francis continued. “Today children do not count. Once they spoke about a conventional war, today that does not count. I’m not saying that conventional wars were good things, but today a bomb is sent and it kills the innocent, the guilty, children, women – they kill everybody. No! We must stop and think a little about the level of cruelty at which we have arrived. This should frighten us.”
The Pope went on to condemn the way torture had become “almost ordinary”. “I tell Catholics that to torture a person is a mortal sin, a grave sin. But it’s more, it’s a sin against humanity,” he said.
The Pope has dispatched a special envoy, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, to Iraq to deliver spiritual and financial support to the Christian and Yazidi minorities.
In a joint statement with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako, the cardinal said they had “heard about and seen for themselves the tragedy and suffering of so many families that have left their villages, their homes and property”. The cardinal said that the international community had a “moral responsibility” to use military force to liberate villages from IS terrorists. “The hope of these people must not be allowed to die!” he said.
Last week the Vatican called on Muslim leaders to “unambiguously” denounce the persecution by IS and suggested that it will break off relations with those who do not. The Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue said: “The situation of the Christians, Yazidis and other [minorities] demands that religious leaders, and above all Muslim religious leaders, people engaged in inter-religious dialogue take a clear and courageous stance. All must be unanimous in unambiguous condemnation of these crimes and denounce the invoking of religion to justify them.”
Amel Shimoun Nona, the Chaldean Catholic Archbishop of Mosul, living in exile after IS drove all the Christians from his diocese or killed them, told Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper that “liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here”, adding that “Islam does not say that all men are equal”, and if Westerners “do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed into your home”.
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