The Vatican nuncio to the United Nations has said that a military strike on Syria is unjustified and will create a "humanitarian disaster".
The comments came during a Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, USA, this weekend.
Archbishop Francis Chullikatt urged a “cessation of violence, not an escalation of violence” in the war-torn country and region.
The Mass was a response to Pope Francis’s call for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for peace and justice in Syria, the Middle East and beyond.
Archbishop Chullikatt declared: “A ceasefire, even if only partial, would permit humanitarian assistance to reach at least the hardest hit areas of the country.”
He continued: “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.”
“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."
The Archbishop said that escalating violence could double the number of displaced Syrians, and that if things go on as they are, as many as half the country's population will need assistance by the end of the year.
Archbishop Chullikatt called on worshippers 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.”
He added that Pope Francis was well aware of the “horrific complexities of the situation in Syria,” not least the anguish, fear and loss being faced by civilians there.
“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,” the nuncio concluded.
* More on Syria from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/syria