Vatican Calls on Muslims to Condemn 'Barbaric' Jihad in Iraq

"The pope? How many divisions has he got?"

Soviet leader Josef Stalin said this in May 1935 to French Foreign Minister Pierre Laval when it was suggested the officially atheist Soviet Union should encourage Christianity to gain the pope's favor.

Whether you think faith had anything to do with it or not, the Soviet Union is no more, Russia has repositioned itself as a defender of Eastern Christianity, and the pope continues to wield the weapons he has – prayer and the power of the world's biggest pulpit.

As reported by Catholic News Service, on Aug. 12, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue released a statement (which wouldn't happen without Pope Francis's knowledge and assent) calling on Muslim leaders to condemn the "barbarity" and "unspeakable criminal acts" of Islamic militants targeting religious minorities in Iraq.

It said, "The plight of Christians, Yazidis and other religious and ethnic communities that are numeric minorities in Iraq demands a clear and courageous stance on the part of the religious leaders, especially Muslims, those engaged in interfaith dialogue and everyone of goodwill."

It then outlines the "criminal acts," including "the execrable practice of beheading, crucifixion and hanging of corpses in public places," the abduction of Christian and Yazidi women and girls as "war booty," female genital mutilation," and forced conversions to Islam.

The document said, "No cause can justify such barbarity and certainly not a religion."

Click here for the full text of the document, from La Stampa's blog Vatican Insider.

On Aug. 10, Pope Francis named Cardinal Fernando Filoni, the Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, as his personal envoy to Iraq. As reported by Vatican Radio, plans are being made to bring all of the Holy See's representatives in the war-torn region to Rome for a meeting on how to support the Christians being killed and terrorized by the Islamic State.

Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi noted that Cardinal Filoni spent six years as papal nuncio (representative) to Jordan and Iraq during the last years of Saddam Hussein and the subsequent war in Iraq and that he was one of the few foreign diplomats to remain in Baghdad while it was being bombarded.

However, before both of these things happened, Pope Francis had already invoked the power of the pulpit in a direct appeal to the United Nations.

On Aug. 13, The Vatican released the full text of an Aug. 9 letter Pope Francis wrote to Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

It reads:

It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events of these past few days in Northern Iraq where Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee from their homes and witness the destruction of their places of worship and religious patrimony. Moved by their plight, I have asked His Eminence Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who served as the Representative of my predecessors, Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, to the people in Iraq, to manifest my spiritual closeness and to express my concern, and that of the entire Catholic Church, for the intolerable suffering of those who only wish to live in peace, harmony and freedom in the land of their forefathers.

In the same spirit, I write to you, Mr. Secretary-General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq. In renewing my urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter.

The violent attacks that are sweeping across Northern Iraq cannot but awaken the consciences of all men and women of goodwill to concrete acts of solidarity by protecting those affected or threatened by violence and assuring the necessary and urgent assistance for the many displaced people as well as their safe return to their cities and their homes. The tragic experiences of the Twentieth Century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.

Confident that my appeal, which I unite with those of the Oriental Patriarchs and other religious leaders, will meet with a positive reply, I take this opportunity to renew to your Excellency the assurances of my highest consideration.

From the Vatican, 9 August 2014


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