Protection of civilian life, an end to the humanitarian catastrophe in Idlib Province, concrete initiatives for the safe return of the displaced, the release of detainees, access for families to information regarding their loved ones, and humane conditions for political prisoners. All this alongside a renewed appeal for the resumption of dialogue and negotiations with the involvement of the international community. These are the concerns and concrete demands contained in a letter that Pope Francis addressed to Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, at a time when military operations and bombardments against defenceless civilians continue in the Idlib region, with dozens of health facilities closed or destroyed. The letter, dated 28 June 2019, was delivered by Card. Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development.
“At the heart of this new initiative – Cardinal Secretary of State Pietro Parolin explained in an interview with Andrea Tornielli, editorial director of the Dicastery for Communications – lies Pope Francis’ and the Holy See’s concern for the emergency humanitarian situation in Syria, in particular in Idlib Province”. The interview, published in Vatican News and in “L’Osservatore Romano” today, reports that the Pope “follows with apprehension and great sorrow the tragic fate of the civilian population, children in particular, caught up in the bloody fighting”. For this reason, he “asks the President to do everything possible to put an end to this humanitarian catastrophe”. The intent of the initiative is not political, Cad. Parolin pointed out, but rather “humanitarian”. The Pope “continues to pray that Syria may regain a climate of fraternity after these long years of war”, and “uses the word ‘reconciliation’ three times”: this is his objective, for the good of that country and its defenceless population. The Pope encourages President Bashar al-Assad to carry out significant gestures in this urgent process of reconciliation, and he offers concrete examples. He cites, for example, creating the conditions needed for the safe return of exiles and internally displaced persons, and for all those who wish to return to the country after having been forced to leave. He also mentions the release of prisoners and the access of families to information about their loved ones”.