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‘Heightening Tensions Between US & Iran Risk Rebuilding in Iraq,’ Pope Warns in Annual Address to Diplomats

Pope Appeals to International Community to Help Achieve ‘De-escalation’, Encourage Dialogue

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The heightening tensions between the United States and Iran could risk the gradual rebuilding that has been achieved and is being worked toward in Iraq, and lead to a vaster conflict….

Pope Francis stressed this, appealing to the International Community, to help promote dialogue, self-control and de-escalation, today, January 9, 2020, during his annual address to the diplomats accredited by the Holy See.

In his long address, the Holy Father primarily reviewed all the fruits of 2019, and its challenges, and observed what he considers to be critical issues of our time.

He also made appeals for Australia, following his yesterday given at his first weekly General Audience of 2020, for protecting the environment, and reiterated his hope to visit South Sudan.

After speaking about the countries he visited last year, Francis said his thoughts turn in a particular way «to one country that I have not visited, Australia, hard hit in recent months by persistent fires that have affected other areas of Oceania as well.»

«I would like to assure the Australian people, especially the victims and all those in the areas devastated by the fires, of my closeness and my prayers,» he said.

While he did not name China or Hong Kong, the Holy Father did make strong appeals for Syria, Yemen, and other hard-hit nations.

Saying a «more steadfast and effective engagement on the part of the international community is most urgent» in other parts of the Mediterranean area and in the Middle East, Francis said: «I think especially of the pall of silence that risks falling over the war that has devastated Syria over the course of the last decade.»

«It is imperative to devise suitable and far-sighted solutions capable of enabling the beloved Syrian people, exhausted by war, to regain peace and to begin the reconstruction of the country. The Holy See favourably regards every initiative aimed at laying the groundwork for the resolution of the conflict, and once more expresses its gratitude to Jordan and Lebanon for having welcomed and taken responsibility, not without significant sacrifice, for millions of Syrian refugees.»

He lamented that in Lebanon and in other States, these «difficulties caused by this welcome» and «other factors of economic and political uncertainty are provoking tensions among the population, further endangering the fragile stability of the Middle East.»

«Particularly troubling are the signals coming from the entire region following the heightening of tensions between Iran and the United States,» he said, «which risk above all compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.»

«I therefore renew my appeal that all the interested parties avoid an escalation of the conflict and “keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint”, in full respect of international law.»

Francis also said his thoughts go to Yemen, «which is experiencing one of the most serious humanitarian crises of recent history amid general indifference on the part of the international community,» and to Libya, «which for many years has experienced a situation of conflict aggravated by incursions of extremist groups and by a further intensification of violence in recent days.»

He decried that this situation provides «fertile terrain» for the «scourge of exploitation and human trafficking.»

Pope Francis also denounced violence against women, continuing his appeals made during his homily on January 1st, during the Mass for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.

‘The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris showed how even what seems so solid can be fragile and easily destroyed’

Pope Francis concluded giving his blessing and assuring them of his prayers.


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Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is Senior Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in 5 languages); Deborah is also NBC & MSNBC Vatican Analyst. She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, often from the Papal Flight (including for historic trips such as to Abu Dhabi and Japan & Thailand), and has also asked him questions on the return-flight press conference on behalf of the English-speaking press present. Lubov has done much TV & radio commentary, including for NBC, Sky, EWTN, BBC, Vatican Radio, AP, Reuters and more. She also has contributed to various books on the Pope and has written for various Catholic publications. For 'The Other Francis': or

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