- Catholic News Agency - Monday, February 8, 2016

Vatican City - The plight of Syrian civilians involved in the nation’s ongoing conflict was at the heart of Pope Francis‘ appeal to the international community on Sunday, in an address where he also called for a renewed commitment to the protection of life at all stages.

“I follow with deep concern the dramatic fate of civilian populations involved in heavy fighting in their beloved Syria, and who are forced to leave everything behind in order to escape the horrors of war,” the Pope said Feb. 7 to crowds which almost filled St. Peter’s Square.

In a wide-ranging post-Angelus address, the Pope expressed his hope that, “with generous solidarity,” the Syrian people might receive the help they need “to ensure their survival and dignity.”

The pontiff extended his appeal to the international community, and stressed that only a political solution will resolve the conflict and secure “a future of reconciliation and peace in that beloved and martyred country.”

He then led the crowds in praying the Hail Mary “to Our Lady for the beloved Syria.”

Russian assaults over the weekend have driven tens of thousands from Aleppo, Syria’s largest city before the war, according to Reuters.

The Pope’s remarks also come days after the suspension of United Nations-brokered peace talks between the Syrian government and opposition forces. The talks will resume later this month.

The Syrian conflict has killed an estimated 250,000 people and displaced 11 million to date.

Pope Francis also acknowledged the 38th annual “Giornata per la Vita” (“Day for Life”) in Italy, and joined Italian bishops in calling on educational and social institutions to renew their commitment to advocating for “human life from conception to its natural end.”

“Mercy makes life flourish,” is the theme of this year’s “Day for Life.”

The Pope also asked for prayers ahead of his apostolic trip to Mexico Feb. 11-22, as well as his first-time meeting with Russian Orthodox Patriarch Kirill, who he referred to as his “dear brother.”

After his Angelus Address, the Pope touched on the World Day of Prayer and Reflection Against the Trafficking of Persons, which is Monday.

The day aims to help trafficked persons “break the heavy chains of exploitation to regain their freedom and dignity,” the Pope said. “We must do everything we can to destroy this crime and this unbearable disgrace.”

Pope Francis also acknowledged the upcoming Lunar New Year, wishing all those celebrating “serenity and peace within their families.”

 

 

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