Pope seeks dialogue for Libya

By  John Thavis, Catholic News Service
  • March 30, 2011
A rebel fighter fires a cannon during a battle with forces loyal to Col. Moammar Gadhafi near Ras Lanuf, a major oil port in Libya. The Pope has called for a sus- pension of fighting and for a start to dialogue to restore peace. (CNS photo/Goran Tomasevic, Reuters)VATICAN CITY - Pope Benedict XVI has appealed for a suspension of fighting in Libya and the immediate start of a serious dialogue aimed at restoring peace to the North African country.

The Pope said he was increasingly concerned at the news from Libya, where rebels supported by U.S., Canadian and European air strikes have battled the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Following a UN directive authorizing all necessary measures to protect civilians, an international coalition of forces, led by warplanes from the United States, Canada, Britain and France, have been pounding Libyan military targets. The military mission was to be taken over by NATO on March 31 under the command of a Canadian,  Lieutenant-General Charlie Bouchard.

“My fear for the safety and well-being of the civilian population is growing, as is my apprehension over how the situation is developing with the use of arms,” the Pope said.

“To international agencies and to those with political and military responsibility, I make a heartfelt appeal for the immediate start of a dialogue that will suspend the use of arms,” he said.

The Pope said that in moments of great international tension, there was more urgency for diplomatic efforts that take advantage of “even the weakest sign of openness to reconciliation” among the parties in conflict. Solutions should be “peaceful and lasting,” he said.

The chairman of the Committee on International Justice and Peace of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, urged a careful use of balanced force and that force be “proportionate to the goal of protecting civilians.”

Bishop Howard J. Hubbard said the use of military force must be continually evaluated in light of these questions: “Is it producing evils graver than the evil it hopes to address?” and “What are the implications of the use of force for the future welfare of the Libyan people and the stability of the region?”

“We know these are difficult questions to which there are few easy answers, but it is our moral responsibility as a nation to rigourously examine the use of military force in light of the need to protect human life and dignity.”

The Pope also expressed concern about the entire region of the Middle East, where episodes of violence and civil unrest were taking place daily. In Syria, more than 50 people were reported killed in anti-government demonstrations in late March.

“My thoughts go to the authorities and citizens of the Middle East.... There, too, the path of dialogue and reconciliation should be chosen for a just and brotherly co-existence,” he said.

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