29 April 2017, The Tablet

War between US and North Korea could destroy 'much of humanity', Pope Francis warns

by Christopher Lamb , on board the papal plane from Cairo

Pope calls on United Nations to take control and work to find a diplomatic solution to escalating tensions

Pope Francis has spoken out over escalating tensions between the United States and North Korea and issued a stark warning to President Donald Trump and the North Korean leader Kim Jong-un that a large scale war threatens the future of humanity. 

Speaking on board the papal plane returning to Rome from Cairo, the Latin American Pontiff called for a “diplomatic solution” to be negotiated. “A widespread war would destroy much of humanity, this is terrible,” Francis told journalists. “There is the need for a diplomatic solution and intervention of the United Nations who must resume its leadership.”

In recent weeks the world has been looking nervously on after the US deployed warships to the North Korean peninsula in response to Pyongyang’s growing nuclear missile programme. In the face of these growing tensions, which has been likened to the 1962 Cuban missile crisis in slow motion, the Pope called for negotiation and diplomacy, pointing out that international organisations such as the UN had seen their influence “watered down”.

The Pope, who at one point had to be helped to steady himself as a result of in-flight turbulence, said he would be ready to receive President Trump in a papal audience although said he had yet to be informed of any official request for a meeting from the White House.  



“I meet every head of state who asks for an audience,” he pointed out. Trump is expected to make a visit to see Francis next month when he is in Sicily for the G7 gathering of global leaders taking place on 26-27 May.

The 30-minute press conference touched on a range of topics although the Pope wanted the questions from reporters to focus on the Egypt trip, meaning there was no time to quiz him on issues such as clerical sexual abuse or the proposed reconciliation with the traditionalist group, the Society of Saint Pius X.

He did, however, say he was “worried” about the case of Giulio Regeni, an Italian student from Cambridge University, Giulio Regeni, who was brutally tortured and murdered in Cairo while researching Egypt’s trade unions. His ordeal, presumed to have been carried out by elements of the country’s intelligence services, has caused a national outcry in Italy with some expecting the Pope to raise the matter during his meeting with Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. During the in-flight press conference, the Pope said the Holy See has “moved” on the issue, but declined to say whether he discussed it with President el-Sisi stressing that their meeting will remain private as is the case with all heads of state.  

Meanwhile, he re-iterated his recent claim that some migrant camps in Europe were like “concentration camps,” words that have been condemned by some Jewish groups. “It was not a slip!” the Pope said. “There are refugee camps that are real concentration camps. Some may be in Italy, and some are in other places. Think about what people do when they are locked away in a field without being able to get out.”

He went on: “Think about what happened in Northern Europe when migrants wanted to cross the sea to go to England, and were locked in.”

He also warned that Europe was in danger of “breaking up”, a phenomenon that was being fuelled by the immigration crisis. When asked about how he would advise Catholics to vote in the second round of the French election, the Pope pleaded ignorance about the politics of France

He made reference to Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate campaigning on an anti-immigrant platform, but when it came to the moderate, pro-European, Emmanuel Macron, the Pope said he didn’t know “where he comes from.” 

Francis added that someone recently suggested to him the idea of creating a Catholic political party but that such an option belongs to the “last century!”

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