Pope Francis appealed for diplomacy rather than war to avoid a “humanitarian catastrophe” in the Syrian province of Idlib, the last rebel stronghold in the effort to overthrow the government of Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad.
The Pope’s comments came after praying the noonday Angelus with a crowd of 25,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square.
Syrian Forces, along with allies, have announced plans to mount a massive attack on Idlib Province. United Nations UN Secretary‑General António Guterres earlier this week appealed to the Government of Syria and all parties to exercise restraint and to prioritize the protection of civilians.
“This is painful: winds of war are blowing again and disturbing news arrives about the risks of a possible humanitarian catastrophe in beloved Syria, in Idlib Province,” the Holy Father said. “I renew my heartfelt appeal to the International Community and to all the actors involved, to make use of the instruments of diplomacy, of dialogue and of negotiations, in respect of International Humanitarian Law, and to safeguard the lives of civilians.”