Pope Benedict XVI told Syria's ambassador to the Holy See that the country's troubled government should respect citizens' desires for reform, and accept guidance from the international community.
“The events of the past months in some nearby Mediterranean countries, Syria among them, demonstrate the desire for a better future in the areas of political, economic, and social life,” the Pope noted in a letter that he gave to Syrian ambassador Hussan Edin Aala on June 9.
“It is greatly desirable, that this evolution not take place in a climate of intolerance, discrimination, or conflict and, sill less, of violence,” the Pope wrote, “but rather in a climate of absolute respect for the truth, for co-existence, for the legitimate rights of the person and the collective, and of reconciliation.”
“These are the principles that should guide the authorities, keeping always in mind the aspiration of civil society and international directives.”
Pope Benedict met with Aala and five other new ambassadors to the Holy See, to receive their credential letters and outline some of the global challenges he has seen emerging this year. After a speech, he presented each of the diplomats with a letter addressing the situation in their respective countries.
The other diplomatic representatives in attendance were Stefan Gorda of Moldavia, Narciso Ntugu Abeso Oyana of Equatorial Guinea, Henry Llewellyn Lawrence of Belize, Genevieve Delali Tsegah of Ghana, and George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand.
Syria's new ambassador to the Vatican has begun his diplomatic work under especially difficult circumstances, as the government of President Bashar Al-Assad faces continuing popular protests and international pressure over human rights violations.
According to Syrian activists, over 1,300 people have died at the hands of security forces since anti-government protests began in March.
Although Pope Benedict called for an end to violence and a respect for human rights in his letter to the Syrian ambassador, he also praised the country's “example of tolerance, concord, and harmonious relations between Christians and Muslims.”
Sunni Muslims make up around three-quarters of Syria's population. Around 16 percent practice some other form of Islam and 10 percent are Christians. The Melkite Greek Catholic Church, one of the largest of the Eastern Catholic Churches, has its headquarters in the capital Damascus.