Pope Francis and Other Catholic Leaders Call for Restraint and Dialogue Amid US-Iran Tensions

Coffins of Gen. Qassem Soleimani and others who were killed in Iraq by a U.S. drone strike are carried on a truck surrounded by mourners during a funeral procession in Kerman, Iran, on Jan. 7, 2020. The leader of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard threatened on Tuesday to “set ablaze” places supported by the United States over the killing of the general, sparking cries from the crowd of supporters of “Death to Israel!” (Erfan Kouchari/Tasnim News Agency via AP)

Concern about the growing tensions between the United States and Iran has been bubbling within the Vatican, as Pope Francis and high-ranking prelates urge global leaders to employ self-restraint and dialogue.

“Dear brothers and sisters, in many parts of the world there is a terrible feeling of tension in the air,” Pope Francis told the faithful gathered in St. Peter’s Square after his Angelus prayer on Sunday (Jan. 5).

“War brings only death and destruction,” he continued. “I call upon all parties involved to fan the flame of dialogue and self-control, and to banish the shadow of enmity.”

Though Francis did not refer directly to Iran or the United States, the timing of his words coincided with the rising hostility between the two countries, which led Vatican observers to view the pope’s words as a direct appeal to the two parties in question.

On Friday, the United States retaliated against Iranian-backed attacks by issuing a targeted strike in Iraq against Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who President Donald Trump said posed an “immediate threat” against American lives.

Soleimani, who kept a low profile for most of his influential military career, was considered a terrorist by the United States, but not by a large part of the international community, including Iran, where he was deemed something of a “national hero.” After the assassination, the supreme leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, promised a “tough revenge” on those responsible.

In this grim geopolitical landscape, Cardinal Peter Turkson, who heads the Vatican Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said that “while we speak peace, there are still forces in the world … that will speak violence to us, and it is only when we hold on to the hand of the Lord himself, the Prince of Peace, that we are able to overcome all of these obstacles.”

Speaking to Vatican News, he noted that the escalation between the United States and Iran took place shortly after Christmas and the New Year, “which we began with such enthusiasm; such hopefulness for peace and tranquility,” only to be met with “news of violence and war in other parts of the world.”

Cardinal Pietro Parolin and Archbishop Paul Gallagher at the Vatican, whose roles are similar to that of a foreign minister, have not released statements on the U.S.-Iran situation so far. Neither have the U.S. bishops, who for the time being seem to have chosen to wait and watch how the situation unfolds.

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Source: Religion News Service