.- Pope Francis met with King Abdullah II and Queen Rania of Jordan on Thursday morning, giving special attention to the Syrian conflict at a time when Western countries are considering military action.
Their Aug. 29 meeting reaffirmed the importance of dialogue and negotiation between all groups in Syrian society, L’Osservatore Romano reports. The meeting concluded that with the international community’s support, this dialogue is the only option to end the conflict.
Since the Syrian conflict began in spring of 2011, over 100,000 people have died. More than 2.5 million Syrians are estimated to have fled their homes. Many have become refugees inside or outside the country – some in neighboring countries such as Jordan.
U.S. President Barack Obama and leaders of several other Western countries are now considering military strikes against Syria following reports that Syrian government forces recently used chemical weapons in a major attack outside Damascus, killing hundreds of citizens.
The Syrian government has denied responsibility for the attack, instead blaming rebels. However, both Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron said this week that they do not believe it is possible that the opposition forces could have carried out the attack. The countries are still weighing military options in response.
The United Nations Security Council declined to authorize action against the regime after Russia voiced opposition. U.N. officials currently in Syria are still investigating the attack.
Both Vatican and local Church leaders have pleaded against military action from Western nations, stressing the harm such attacks could have on a large scale.
In addition, Pope Francis has called repeatedly for dialogue and cooperative efforts to address the growing crisis.
In a June 5 address to Catholic groups helping Syrian refugees, the Pontiff emphasized the importance of “the entire Christian community in this important work of assistance and aid.”
“Faced with the continuing violence and abuse, I strongly renew my appeal for peace,” he said.
Stressing “the good of the person and the protection of his dignity,” he urged support for “fruitful dialogue with the aim of putting an end to the war.”
Last weekend, he again called for an end to the violence in the country, offering prayers and solidarity to those who have been affected by the “multiplication of massacres and atrocious acts.”
Pope Francis’ Thursday discussion with King Abdullah and Queen Rania also covered other concerns in the Middle East, focusing in particular on restarting negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians.
King Abdullah later met with Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, Secretary for Relations with States.
The meetings voiced appreciation for King Abdullah’s commitment to interreligious dialogue and for his initiative to convene a conference in Amman in September to discuss the challenges presently facing Christians in the Middle East.
The meetings also noted the positive contributions of Christians to the Middle East.