Pope sending Cardinal Dolan on peace mission to Syria

By Kevin J. Jones

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Smoke billows skyward as homes and buildings are shelled June 9, 2012 in the city of Homs, Syria. Credit: UN Photo-David Manyua.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York will be part of a papal delegation to Syria that will voice “fraternal solidarity” with the Syrian people and encourage peace amid the country’s violent conflict.

The Holy See’s Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, said Oct. 16 that the world’s Catholic bishops cannot be “mere spectators of a tragedy such as the one that is now unfolding in Syria.”

He said a political answer is “the only possible solution to the crisis.” The Syrian population and displaced persons have endured “immense suffering.”

He said the delegation will travel to Damascus next week.

“In the meantime we pray that reason and compassion might prevail,” Cardinal Bertone said.

Fighting between rebels and the Syrian government has killed an estimated 30,000 people.

Syria’s Christians tend to support the government, given the fate they expect to suffer if Islamists take control. Rebels have targeted Christians, bombing several churches and driving tens of thousands of them from their homes.

Lakhdar Brahimi, a peace envoy from the United Nations and the Arab League, is presently touring the region to try to find a solution to the conflict. He arrived in Lebanon Oct. 17 after visiting Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq.

He is seeking a three-day ceasefire for the Muslim holiday Eid, which is observed on Oct. 26. The rebel Free Syrian Army has rejected the proposal on the grounds it would allow the government to prepare more offensives. The Syrian National Council, which opposes the government, has tentatively welcomed the proposal.

Another member of the papal delegation will be Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, the President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

On Oct. 17 at the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization, he said the group will show “human solidarity towards people who are suffering.” It will also express spiritual solidarity.

The delegation aims to find a solution to the conflict.

“We must help those who are in charge of society and the general political landscape,” the cardinal said, according to Vatican Radio.

In addition to Cardinals Dolan and Tauran, the delegation will include Cardinal Laurent Mosengwo Pasinya of Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo; Bishop Fabio Suescun Mutis, military ordinary of Colombia; and Bishop Joseph Nguyen Nang of Phat Diem, Vietnam.

Vatican officials in the delegation include Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s Secretary for Relations with States, and Msgr. Alberto Ortega of the Secretariat of State.

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