ROME — Pope Francis addressed growing tensions between Iran and the United States Thursday, urging both parties to practice self-control and dialogue to avoid further conflict.
“Particularly troubling are the signals coming from the entire region following the heightening of tensions between Iran and the United States,” the pope said in his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, “which risk above all compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert.”
“I therefore renew my appeal that all the interested parties avoid an escalation of the conflict and keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint, in full respect of international law,” he said.
Already on Sunday the pontiff made a thinly veiled reference to the U.S.-Iran hostilities without mentioning them by name.
There is a “terrible air of tension” in many parts of the world, Francis said Sunday, following his weekly Angelus prayer in Saint Peter’s Square. “I call upon all parties to keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-control, and to banish the shadow of enmity.”
“War only brings death and destruction,” the he added.
In its report on the meeting, Vatican News noted that the pope did not mention any specific countries, yet made it clear that he was referring to the U.S.-Iran situation.
“Pope Francis’ appeal comes on the heels of heightened tensions between the United States and Iran, after a US airstrike killed a top Iranian general in Iraq,” Vatican News stated in reference to last Friday’s U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani.
General Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, the agency observed, the wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in charge of military activities outside Iran.
In his speech Thursday, the pope said it is necessary to acknowledge “the many troubling issues confronting our world and the challenges lurking on the horizon,” recognizing that “our human family is scarred and wounded by a succession of increasingly destructive wars that especially affect the poor and those most vulnerable.”
“Sadly, the new year does not seem to be marked by encouraging signs, as much as by heightened tensions and acts of violence,” he said.