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Pontiff on peace in Syria, development, child abuse

Pope Francis has appealed for combatants to respect a ceasefire in Syria as violence flares up in the country devastated by civil war.

Speaking after the Regina Coeli prayer in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, the Pope said he is deeply pained by the dramatic news of the spiral of violence in Syria that, he said, continues to ‘aggravate the already desperate humanitarian situation in the country.’

“I receive with deep sorrow the tragic news coming from Syria,” he said. Referring to Syria’s largest city Aleppo, which has borne the brunt of the most recent violence, the Pope remembered the ‘innocent victims,’ namely the children, the sick, and ‘those who with great sacrifice have pledged to help others.’

“I urge all parties to the conflict to respect the cessation of hostilities and to strengthen the ongoing dialogue, the only path that leads to peace,” he added.

About 250 people have reportedly been killed in Aleppo in the past nine days, according to the BBC. On Monday, fresh government air strikes and artillery attacks on rebel-held districts and suburbs of Aleppo left at least three dead, activists said. According to Staffan de Mistura, the UN special envoy to Syria, a Syrian has been killed every 25 minutes in recent days.

A civil war has been fought in Syria since 2011, with rebel groups fighting the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Pope also spoke to pilgrims in St Peter’s square about the environment, acknowledging this week’s international conference in Rome titled Sustainable development and the most vulnerable forms of employment, which takes place within the context of the Jubilee of Mercy.

“I hope that the event will sensitise the authorities, political and economic institutions and civil society in order to promote a model of development that will safeguard human dignity within full respect for labour and environmental legislation,” he said.

Later during his post-Regina Caeli address, the Holy Father commended an Italian initiative for its work in fighting against the abuse of minors in all its forms.


Caption: A child is seen in a hospital bed after being injured in a March 10 bombing near Damascus, Syria


—This story ran in full in the May 6 edition print of the SCO, available in parishes.

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