2. Pope Francis' letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations (made public today):
His ExcellencyMr Ban Ki-moonSecretary GeneralUnited Nations Organization
It is with a heavy and anguished heart that I have been following the dramatic events of these past few days in Northern Iraq where Christians and other religious minorities have been forced to flee from their homes and witness the destruction of their places of worship and religious patrimony. Moved by their plight, I have asked His Eminence Cardinal Fernando Filoni, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, who served as the Representative of my predecessors, Pope St John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, to the people in Iraq, to manifest my spiritual closeness and to express my concern, and that of the entire Catholic Church, for the intolerable suffering of those who only wish to live in peace, harmony and freedom in the land of their forefathers.
In the same spirit, I write to you, Mr Secretary-General, and place before you the tears, the suffering and the heartfelt cries of despair of Christians and other religious minorities of the beloved land of Iraq. In renewing my urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter.
The violent attacks that are sweeping across Northern Iraq cannot but awaken the consciences of all men and women of goodwill to concrete acts of solidarity by protecting those affected or threatened by violence and assuring the necessary and urgent assistance for the many displaced people as well as their safe return to their cities and their homes. The tragic experiences of the Twentieth Century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities.
Confident that my appeal, which I unite with those of the Oriental Patriarchs and other religious leaders, will meet with a positive reply, I take this opportunity to renew to your Excellency the assurances of my highest consideration.
From the Vatican, 9 August 2014
3. Declaration of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue (made public yesterday):
The whole world has witnessed with incredulity what is now called the "Restoration of the Caliphate," which had been abolished on October 29,1923 by Kamal Ataturk, founder of modern Turkey. Opposition to this "restoration" by the majority of religious institutions and Muslim politicians has not prevented the "Islamic State" jihadists from committing and continuing to commit unspeakable criminal acts.
This Pontifical Council, together with all those engaged in interreligious dialogue, followers of all religions, and all men and women of good will, can only unambiguously denounce and condemn these practices which bring shame on humanity:
-the massacre of people on the sole basis of their religious affiliation;
-the despicable practice of beheading, crucifying and hanging bodies in public places;
-the choice imposed on Christians and Yezidis between conversion to Islam, payment of a tax (jizya) or forced exile;
-the forced expulsion of tens of thousands of people, including children, elderly, pregnant women and the sick;
-the abduction of girls and women belonging to the Yezidi and Christian communities as spoils of war (sabaya);
-the imposition of the barbaric practice of infibulation;
-the destruction of places of worship and Christian and Muslim burial places;
-the forced occupation or desecration of churches and monasteries;
-the removal of crucifixes and other Christian religious symbols as well as those of other
-the destruction of a priceless Christian religious and cultural heritage;
-indiscriminate violence aimed at terrorizing people to force them to surrender or flee.
No cause, and certainly no religion, can justify such barbarity. This constitutes an extremely serious offense to humanity and to God who is the Creator, as Pope Francis has often reminded us. We cannot forget, however, that Christians and Muslims have lived together - it is true with ups and downs - over the centuries, building a culture of peaceful coexistence and civilization of which they are proud. Moreover, it is on this basis that, in recent years, dialogue between Christians and Muslims has continued and intensified.
The dramatic plight of Christians, Yezidis and other religious communities and ethnic minorities in Iraq requires a clear and courageous stance on the part of religious leaders, especially Muslims, as well as those engaged in interreligious dialogue and all people of good will. All must be unanimous in condemning unequivocally these crimes and in denouncing the use of religion to justify them. If not, what credibility will religions, their followers and their leaders have? What credibility can the interreligious dialogue that we have patiently pursued over recent years have?
Religious leaders are also called to exercise their influence with the authorities to end these crimes, to punish those who commit them and to reestablish the rule of law throughout the land, ensuring the return home of those who have been displaced. While recalling the need for an ethical management of human societies, these same religious leaders must not fail to stress that the support, funding and arming of terrorism is morally reprehensible.
That said, the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue is grateful to all those who have already raised their voices to denounce terrorism, especially that which uses religion to justify it.
Let us therefore unite our voices with that of Pope Francis: "May the God of peace stir up in each one of us a genuine desire for dialogue and reconciliation. Violence is never defeated by violence. Violence is defeated by peace. "
[Personal recess continues for an indefinite period of time.]