Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, spoke this morning about the Rome summit on Lebanon which he attended as an invited observer. Archbishop Lajolo told Vatican Radio that despite the lack of a definitive statement demanding an immediate ceasefire, many positive results stemmed from the meeting. Lajolo said that the Vatican continues its call for an immediate cessation of fighting.
The Archbishop said that a very positive sign was the speed with which the conference was convened and the fact that, it focused its attention on, "the most urgent needs of the present time."
It was extremely encouraging, Lajolo said, “that countries from various parts of the world ... came together in an awareness of the gravity of what is happening in Lebanon, reaffirming the need for the country to regain full sovereignty as soon as possible," and that "they made a commitment to help her."
He also mentioned, "the request to form an international force under the United Nations, to support the regular Lebanese army in security matters," as well as, "the commitment to offer immediate humanitarian aid to the people of Lebanon and the guarantee of support in rebuilding by calling a conference of donor States," as positives.
On the subject of the final declaration, which was judged by many as disappointing, he noted that "the expectations of the public were certainly high, but for the well-informed who understand the difficulties, it could perhaps be said that the results were significant."
The sense of disappointment, said the archbishop, may have been caused above all by the fact that there was no request for an immediate cessation of hostilities. “Unanimity among the participants was not achieved,” Lajolo said, “because some countries maintained that an appeal would not have produced the desired effect, and it was felt more realistic to express a commitment to achieve, without delay, a cessation of hostilities, (a commitment) which can, in fact, be maintained."
The call for immediate ceasefire was opposed by the United States and several European countries, which hold that due to the failure of past ceasefires further steps must be taken to achieve a lasting peace before a ceasefire can be initiated.
Lajolo criticized the view that continued fighting is necessary to achieve a more lasting peace. “The position of those who maintain that conditions must first be created so that any truce is not once again violated is only apparently one of realism, because those conditions can and must be created with means other than the killing of innocent people,” Lajolo said. “The Pope is close to those peoples, victims of contrasts and of a conflict foreign to them. Benedict XVI prays, and with him the entire Church, for the day of peace to come today and not tomorrow. He prays to God and appeals to political leaders.”
Another problematic issue, said the archbishop, was the fact that the conference limited itself, "to inviting Israel to exercise the greatest restraint. By its nature, this call has a certain inevitable ambiguity, whilst respect for the innocent civilian population is a precise and binding duty."
Today in fact, the BBC has reported that Israeli Minister of Justice, Haim Ramon, told Israeli cabinet ministers that the decision of the international group not to demand Israel to cease its attacks on Lebanon qualifies as a green light to continue.
Lajolo said that despite the cessation of fighting, he was pleased that Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon, "had the opportunity to explain fully the dramatic nature of the situation of the country, and to present his own plan for the immediate and definitive resolution of the conflict with Israel. He was also able to witness and further encourage the positive efforts being made by the international community to help the Lebanese people, to put an end to the conflict and to reinforce his government's control of the country."
In a meeting yesterday evening with Cardinal Secretary of State Angelo Sodano, Siniora "expressed great appreciation for the commitment with which the Holy Father in person, and the Holy See, are following the conflict that is wracking Lebanon, and he requested continuing support for his country in the international arena" said Archbishop Lajolo. "He also recalled the words of Pope John Paul II, who defined Lebanon not only as a country but as 'a message' for all peoples of harmonious coexistence among various religions and confessions in one State."
The Archbishop affirmed that, following the Rome conference, "the Holy See remains in favor of an immediate cessation of hostilities. The problems on the table are many and extremely complex, and precisely for that reason cannot all be dealt with together. While bearing in mind the general picture and the overall solution to be achieved, the problems must be resolved 'per partes,' beginning with those that are immediately resolvable.”
"The Pope weeps with every mother weeping for her children, with all those weeping for their loved ones. An immediate suspension of hostilities is possible, and therefore necessary," Lajolo concluded.