Holy See Address to UN Debate on Situation in Middle East

«The Holy See pledges to continue to work alongside those alleviating the suffering of all marginalized, uprooted and oppressed by conflict.»

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Here below we publish the intervention of Archbishop Francis Chullikatt, Apostolic Nuncio, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in the Security Council Open Debate on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” (New York, 20 January 2014)

Mr. President,

My Delegation congratulates you on this month’s Jordanian Presidency of the Security Council and commends your convening of this timely open debate on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Jordan’s leadership draws on insights into the region of great benefit to this Council, and it will be from Amman in your own country that His Holiness Pope Francis, as a witness to peace, will begin his own pilgrimage of prayer to the Holy Land on May 24th of this year.

 For the Holy See, the resumption of peace talks between Israelis and Palestinians constitutes a positive development, in regard to which Pope Francis has expressed the hope that “both parties will resolve, with the support of the international community, to take courageous decisions”.[1] Courageous decisions are seldom easy ones and can make demands on us that may be politically difficult and unpopular. Yet when faced with the reality of conflict in the Middle East all right-minded people see the need for change. Peace is not simply the absence of war but requires that the demands of justice are met for all peoples and communities. My Delegation, accordingly, joins its voice once more with all people of good will who welcome, with great hope, the re-engagement of direct, serious and concrete negotiations so that a rejuvenated peace process may help unfold better prospects for the future.

Of great significance, furthermore, is the recent agreement of the Permanent Members of this Council and Germany with Iran in respect to its nuclear programme, which offers great hopes that an era of distrust may be displaced by a new climate of trust and cooperation and it is hoped that it will be fully implemented and open the path to a definitive agreement.

Mr. President,

The Holy See has urgently and repeatedly voiced its clear concerns for the peace and welfare of all the peoples of the Middle East. Most recently it has been the ongoing situation in Syria which has prompted Pope Francis to renew the Holy See’s profound solicitude for the situation in the whole of this region. Calling the Catholic faithful to prayer and fasting for Syria in September last year, Pope Francis made a heartfelt plea “that the violence and devastation in Syria may cease immediately and that a renewed effort be undertaken to achieve a just solution to this fratricidal conflict.”[2] “Never has the use of violence brought peace in its wake,” said the pope: “War begets war, violence begets violence.”[3]

Mr. President,

May the Geneva II talks on January 22nd be an occasion for a renewed reflection on the criteria needed to offer a new start for this beautiful nation left prey to indescribable destruction and loss of lives! These must include an immediate ceasefire without procrastinations owing to political preconditions, including a renewed commitment to promoting initiatives of peace instead of the sending and funding of arms, which has escalated the violence and conflict. At the same time, this must involve an immediate roll-out of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction for the countless refugees and displaced persons being housed temporarily in neighbouring countries, where so many suffer life-threatening deprivations, inter alia, of nutrition, safe drinking water and basic sanitation. The urgency of rebuilding peace trumps the resolution of other political and social questions, though such rebuilding certainly will need to include new forms of political participation and representation that ensure the voice and security of all groups calling Syria their home.

The Pope has expressed his deep concern for those experiencing relocation and displacement in efforts to escape incessant violence, as well as for those nations challenged by the influx of a great number of refugees. The international community cannot stand aloof to their praiseworthy efforts to assist. The Holy See – through its wide array of educational, health care and social service outreach efforts – pledges to continue to work alongside those alleviating the suffering of all marginalized, uprooted and oppressed by conflict.

Many of these refugees constitute a worrying exodus of Christians from their bi-millennial homelands owing, among other causes, to the targeting and instability visited upon them by fundamentalist and extremist forces. Interreligious dialogue and reconciliation will be required, thus, to restore the balance in the rich and complex pluralism of Syrian society. The Holy See stands ready to support all religious communities in their efforts to reach new understandings and the restoration of trust after these years of violence, revenge and recrimination.

Mr. President,

The Syrian people have demonstrated by their history an ability to live together in peace. Regional and international rivalries, therefore, that have little to do with the Syrian communities themselves, must be set aside, so that at the heart of the discussions are not these interests but rather those of the individual human person and the good of Syria. To this end all the interested parties are called to work together if conditions for lasting peace are to be put in place. The Geneva II talks must, accordingly, ensure inclusive participation for all parties to this conflict, in the region and beyond. The Holy See, by its presence, wholeheartedly wishes to support this objective.

Finally, I wish to call to mind the concern expressed by Pope Francis for the ongoing political problems in Lebanon, and also for Iraq, which struggles to attain the peace and stability for which it hopes.

Mr. President,

For the United Nations the challenges of the Middle East are a clarion call for its peacemaking role, the very raison d’être for this institution. May this open debate help muster the much needed political will to spur the international community to make a real difference in the lives of the peoples of the Middle East and help them to fulfil their dream of long-awaited peace! The global economic situation no longer permits that the international community continue indefinitely to fund growing refugee populations. Political solutions are the best solutions even for the economies of these countries because peace is the necessary precondition for the socio-economic stability capable of attracting development funds. In his address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See on January 13th, therefore, Pope Francis urged the whole world with great insistence to address the problems of the Middle East and to act, before any further deterioration of the situation occurs.[4]

I thank you, Mr. President.

[1]Address of Pope Francis to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2014.

[2]Words after the Angelus Prayer of Pope Francis, Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 8 September 2013.

[3] Words during the Angelus Prayer of Pope Francis, St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 1 September 2013.

[4]Address of Pope Francis to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2014.

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