By Lydia O’Kane
During his Angelus address in the Italian city of Bari on Sunday the Pope’s thoughts turned to the people of north-western Syria.
Syria, a huge tragedy
He said, that while they were gathered “to pray and reflect on peace and the fate of the peoples of the Mediterranean”, a huge tragedy was taking place on the other side of this sea.
In a heartfelt appeal, Pope Francis urged the actors involved in the Syrian conflict and the international community “to silence the noise of weapons and to listen to the cries of the weak and defenseless.”
He also appealed for self-interests to be put aside “in order to safeguard the lives of civilians and the many innocent children who are paying the price.”
“Let us pray to the Lord”, the Pope said, “that he may move hearts and that all may overcome the logic of conflict, hatred and revenge in order to rediscover themselves as brothers and sisters of one Father, who makes the sun rise over the good and the bad”.
The Pontiff prayed that guided by the Holy Spirit, new relationships would be built, “inspired by understanding, acceptance and patience, thus creating the conditions for experiencing the joy of the Gospel and spreading it in every environment of life.”
The Pope’s words on Sunday came after the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called on Friday for an immediate cease-fire in Syria’s war-torn Idlib province to avoid he said, “an uncontrollable escalation”.
The human cost of conflict
The United Nations estimates that around 2.8 million people in northwest Syria, require humanitarian assistance. The vast majority of which are women and children.
For almost a year, Syrian ground offensives have targeted a de-escalation zone in Idlib, and this month Turkish and Syrian forces have clashed repeatedly.
Mr Guterres stressed that “this man-made humanitarian nightmare for the long-suffering people of Syria must stop. It must stop now.”
Earlier this month, during the Angelus in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis launched a renewed appeal for the international community to protect the many people suffering in northwestern Syria.
Pope thanks Bishops of the Mediterranean
Before the recitation of the Marian prayer, Pope Francis thanked from the bottom of his heart “all the Bishops and all those who participated in this meeting on the Mediterranean”.
“You have contributed, he said, “to the growth of the culture of encounter and dialogue in this region so important for peace in the world.”