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After Syrian gas attack, Pope Francis calls on world leaders: ‘End this tragedy& …

A civil defense member breathes through an oxygen mask after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria, on April 4, 2017. Photo courtesy of Reuters/Ammar Abdullah *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-POPE-SYRIA, originally transmitted on April 5, 2017.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) Pope Francis condemned the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed over 100 people in Syria and renewed his call for an urgent political solution to end the war.

Speaking at his weekly audience at the Vatican on Wednesday (April 5), the pope said he was horrified by the “unacceptable” massacre of civilians, including at least 20 children, on Tuesday.

“I firmly deplore the unacceptable carnage that took place yesterday in Idlib province where scores of helpless people, including many children, were killed,” the pope said.

Several countries, including the U.S., have blamed Syrian government forces for the attack in which scores of people appeared to choke to death in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held area of northern Syria. The Syrian army has denied any involvement.

“We look on horrified by the recent events in Syria,” the pope told tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

“I pray for the victims and their families and appeal to the consciences of those with political responsibilities, both locally and internationally, to end this tragedy and bring relief to the dear people who for too long have been exhausted by war.”

Three new Syrian families have been given shelter by the Vatican in a bid to aid those fleeing conflict and persecution.

A total of 13 people – from one Muslim and two Christian families – are being housed in three Vatican-owned apartments recently vacated by other refugees who have moved to more permanent accommodation in Rome.

The deadly attack occurred as 70 donor countries were meeting in Brussels at a conference hosted by the European Union to discuss humanitarian relief for Syria as the conflict enters its seventh year.

Monsignor Paul Gallagher, who is responsible for the Holy See’s relations with other states, told the conference the Vatican was “deeply concerned about the tremendous human suffering” in Syria and the treatment of prisoners and detainees.

In 2016 the Catholic Church contributed $200 million in humanitarian aid to 4.6 million people in Syria and the surrounding region, Gallagher said.

(Josephine McKenna covers the Vatican for RNS)

About the author

Josephine McKenna

Josephine McKenna has more than 30 years' experience in print, broadcast and interactive media. Based in Rome since 2007, she covered the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and election of Pope Francis and canonizations of their predecessors. Now she covers all things Vatican for RNS.

4 Comments

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  • “Papal diplomacy in Syria has helped Russia and Assad … In September 2013 [Pope Francis] led the moral charge against a proposed Western military intervention in Syria following charges that Bashar al-Assad had deployed chemical weapons against opposition-controlled areas around Damascus. Francis launched an all-out diplomatic push against widening the conflict, and was later credited by Russian President Vladimir Putin with being decisive in halting the momentum with the G8 towards supporting the initiative.” (cruxnow.com)

  • This just in.

    Trumpee says he is considering invading Syria. more American lives at risk, not to mention tens of thousands of Syrians. More waste of our treasure, from the part of fiscal responsibility. More jacking up instability in the Middle East.

  • Hey Pope Francis end this tragedy that the Catholic Church as created as it demeans and discriminates against women and the LGBT community. Clean your own house first before you start telling others what they should be doing.

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