Address by H. E. Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher
Secretary for Relations with States
Head of the Delegation of the Holy See to the
Seventy-second Session of the United Nations General Assembly
at the High-level Meeting on the Syrian crisis
Organized by the European Union Delegation to the United Nations
United Nations Headquarters, New York, 21 September 2017
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like, at the very outset, to convey the deep appreciation of Pope Francis to all who tirelessly toil to find a political solution to the conflict in Syria and to assist in every way the victims of the senseless war. He encourages every effort toward the pursuit of the political process to end the conflict.
Since the beginning of the crisis, the Holy See has always remained deeply concerned about the tremendous human suffering, affecting millions of innocent children and other civilians who remain deprived of essential goods and services. In the overall effort to limit the immense suffering the conflict has been inflicting on the population, humanitarian workers must have rapid, safe and unhindered access wherever there are people in need. The Holy See urges that international humanitarian law be fully respected, particularly with regard to the protection of civilian populations and infrastructure. Furthermore, the Holy See also expresses its concern for the conditions and treatment of prisoners and detainees.
The Holy See, through the various charitable agencies of the Catholic Church, has been responding to the humanitarian crisis in Syria and the region from the very beginning. In 2016, the Holy See and the Catholic Church contributed to providing USD 200 million of humanitarian assistance of direct benefit to more than 4.6 million people in Syria and the surrounding region. In distributing aid, Catholic agencies and entities make no distinction regarding the religious or ethnic identity of those requiring assistance and give priority to the most vulnerable and in most need.
Given the continuing overwhelming humanitarian needs, the Holy See continues to join its voice to the appeals for increased funding to help refugees and impacted host countries, in particular Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, Turkey and Egypt. I wish to give assurances of the commitment of the Catholic Church to continue its humanitarian assistance in the coming year.
The rights of all Syrians must be protected. The rule of law, including respect for religious freedom and equality before the law based on the principle of citizenship regardless of one’s race, ethnic origin or religion, is fundamental for the achievement and maintenance of the peaceful and fruitful coexistence among individuals and communities in Syria and beyond. A credible, mutually agreed, intra-Syrian political solution to the on-going conflict, with the constructive support of the international community, is fundamental for the achievement of a durable peace in Syria and of a harmonious co-existence among all its ethnic and religious communities. As we move toward the peaceful resolution of the conflict, let us not diminish our solicitude and commitment for Syria and its beloved people.
I thank you.