Pope Francis mobilizing Vatican diplomats to quell a world war he says has begun

Pope Francis and the Vatican are pursuing peace in the globe’s two major conflicts, working through official and unofficial channels.

VATICAN CITY (RNS) — Already engaged with the conflict in Ukraine, Pope Francis and the Vatican have opened a new front in diplomacy efforts to address the violence in the Holy Land, with papal diplomats working to promote peace through official and unofficial channels.

Like religious leaders around the world, Francis has made official statements on the war that has followed Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel. “I encourage faithful to take only one side in this conflict, the side of peace,” Francis said during his weekly audience on Oct. 18.

Nine days later he called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace, repeating the appeal spoken by Pope Pius XII at the onset of the Second World War: “Nothing is lost in peace, all can be lost with war.”

Vatican officials joined international calls for renewed pursuit of a two-state solution as a long-term answer to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, establishing a viable Palestinian state alongside security guarantees for Israel, which has been the Holy See’s position since 2013. 

Francis reaffirmed the Vatican’s support for the strategy in phone calls with U.S. President Joe Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while the apostolic nuncio to the United Nations, Archbishop Giordano Caccia, told the Security Council on Oct. 24, “while the path of dialogue appears narrow at present, it is the only viable option for a lasting end to the cycle of violence that has engulfed that land, so dear to Christians, Jews and Muslims.”

The Vatican’s secretary for relations with states, Archbishop Paul Gallagher, meanwhile has reached out to other leaders in the region, conveying to Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in a phone conversation “the Holy See’s serious concern for what is unfolding in Israel and Palestine, underlining the absolute need to avoid enlarging the conflict and to realize the two-State solution for a stable and lasting peace in the Middle East,” according to a Vatican statement.

The Holy See, which recognized the state of Palestine in 2013 and signed the first comprehensive agreement with the Palestinian Authority in June 2015, also has diplomatic relations with Jordan and Egypt.

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