Ukraine: Holy See reiterates appeal to open humanitarian corridors
By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
The Holy See has called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in the face of the increasing and concerning number of civilian casualties, as well as the damage to critical infrastructure that trails the war in Ukraine.
Speaking at the “Joint Launch of the Humanitarian Flash Appeal and the Regional Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine” on Tuesday, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia noted that the number of people fleeing ongoing hostilities and crossing into neighbouring countries is fast approaching 700,000, and is likely to increase due to disruptions to local supply chains, essential services, access to food and other basic goods
Reiterating Pope Francis’ appeal at the Sunday Angelus, he stressed the urgency of opening humanitarian corridors, as well as ensuring full, safe, and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to deliver assistance to civilian populations in need.
“Protecting civilian populations, as well as humanitarian personnel, in accordance with international humanitarian law, must be the priority,” said the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations.
Welcoming and protecting refugees
Archbishop Caccia extended the Holy See’s commendation for States that are accepting refugees in a “spirit of solidarity” as well as those offering the much-needed humanitarian assistance.
He stressed that “welcoming, protecting and assisting the hundreds of thousands of refugees is a common responsibility.” At the same time, he emphasized that efforts to respond to the needs of those fleeing for safety must respect the principle of non-refoulement (which prohibits States from transferring or removing individuals from their jurisdiction or effective control when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be at risk of irreparable harm upon return), as well as shared obligations under international law, and must be offered on a non-discriminatory basis.
The archbishop then joined with other Member States to call for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a “return to diplomacy and dialogue.” He also noted the efforts of the Catholic Church and its institutions, and the help they are providing to thousands in need.
The Pope’s appeals
Taking up the same appeal at the 11th Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, Abp Caccia noted the Pope’s closeness to those who suffer as a result of the conflict, and re-echoed his calls for the opening of humanitarian corridors.
Pope Francis had also appealed to those fighting, including in wars in order parts of the world, to “put down [your] weapons” stressing that “those who love peace… reject war as an instrument of aggression against the freedom of other peoples and as a means for the settlement of international disputes.”
Furthermore, the Holy Father had called on men and women of goodwill to observe Wednesday, 2 March, as a day “to be close to the sufferings of the Ukrainian people, to feel that we are all brothers and sisters, and to implore of God the end of the war.”
The duty to resolve disputes
Archbishop Caccia recalled that the United Nations was founded “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and “live together in peace with one another as good neighbors.” Therefore, he continued, “it is the duty of all States to seek to resolve disputes through negotiation, mediation, or by other peaceful means, even when war has commenced.”
In this regard, the Permanent Observer expressed the Holy See’s conviction that there is always time for goodwill, room for negotiation, and “a place for the exercise of a wisdom that can prevent the predominance of partisan interest, safeguard the legitimate aspirations of everyone, and spare the world from the folly and horrors of war.”