Speech by H.E. Cardinal Pietro Parolin
Secretary of State
74th General Assembly of the United Nations
High-Level Ministerial Event on Syria
New York, 24 September 2019
Madam High Representative,
I would like to express my gratitude to the European Union for organizing today’s event and appreciation for its various initiatives, especially the Brussels Conferences, which aim at finding a lasting political resolution to the conflict in Syria. The Holy See continues to follow with great concern this tragedy that for more than eight years now has afflicted the Syrian people, creating a dramatic humanitarian situation. It is in this context that Pope Francis wrote to President Bashar al-Assad at the end of June.
The Holy See has always insisted on the need to strictly adhere to the principles of international humanitarian law and to seek a viable political solution to end the conflict, overcoming partisan interests, and to respect the rights and aspirations of the Syrian population. This must be accomplished with the tools of diplomacy, dialogue, negotiation and with the involvement of the international community.
With regard to the suffering of the civilian population, the Holy See would like to emphasize three aspects:
1. that the imposed sanctions also create heavy burdens for the civilian population. In fact, charitable organizations working in the field have stressed repeatedly the harmful effect of these sanctions on civilians, asking that they be repealed;
2. the problem of refugee return and reconciliation. The Holy See invites the international community to sustain and encourage their voluntary and safe return, and that of internally displaced people;
3. that Christians and religious minorities have always had a specific role in the social fabric of the Middle East. Their presence must be supported and encouraged as a contribution to social cohesion as well as to the necessary reconciliation process. As Pope Francis stressed in his last speech to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See: “It is extremely important that Christians have a place in the future of the region”. The Holy See hopes that “political authorities will not fail to ensure their security and all else needed for them to continue to dwell in the countries of which they are full citizens, and to contribute to their growth.”1
The Holy See strongly encourages the international community “not to neglect the many needs of the victims of this crisis, and above all to set aside special interests in order to be at the service of peace, and to bring an end to war.” 2
After eight painful years of conflict, it is necessary, indeed urgent, to overcome the political stagnation and to have the courage to seek new paths of dialogue and new solutions, with a spirit of realism and a concern for those involved. Not only is the stability of the Middle East at stake, but the very future of young people, many born and raised outside their own country, who are often deprived of educational opportunities and lack the basic necessities to live. Too often, they become easy prey to criminality and radicalization. This is a question of dignity and of civility.
I wish to assure you that the Holy See, and the Catholic Church in general, will maintain their commitment to encouraging the search for viable solutions to the crisis and will continue to pay attention to the humanitarian situation, providing aid in favour of the peoples affected by the conflict in Syria and of the refugees, together with the communities that host them, without any distinction on the basis of religious or ethnic identity, for those who need help.
Thank you, Madam High Representative.
1. Pope Francis, Address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, 7 January 2019.
2. Pope Francis, Address of to the participants at the working meeting on the crisis in Syria and neighbouring countries, 14 September 2018.