By Ann Schneible
Pope Francis on Sunday decried the resurgence of violence in Syria in recent days, especially in Aleppo, and renewed the call to bring about peace through dialogue.
“I receive with deep sorrow the tragic news coming from Syria, about the spiral of violence that continues to aggravate the already desperate humanitarian situation of the country,” the pontiff said May 1 after reciting the Regina Caeli address in St. Peter’s Square.
Citing in particular the nation’s largest city Aleppo, which has borne the brunt of the most recent violence, the Pope remembered the “innocent victims,” namely the children, the sick, and “those who with great sacrifice have pledged to help others.”
“I urge all parties to the conflict to respect the cessation of hostilities and to strengthen the ongoing dialogue, the only path that leads to peace,” he said.
Since the breaking of a ceasefire nine days ago, President Bashar Al-Assad’s forces have launched against Aleppo hundreds of air and artillery strikes, as well as bombs and missals, according to The Guardian.
Reuters reports that around 30 airstrikes struck Aleppo on Saturday alone.
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a British-based monitoring group, says around 250 civilians have been killed in the Aleppo region since the most recent bought of fighting began on April 22 between government and rebel forces, The Guardian reports.
Over the course of the civil war between Syrian and government forces, which has just entered its fifth year, estimates say that hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and millions more displaced.
Later during his post-Regina Caeli address, Pope Francis commended an Italian initiative for its work in fighting against the abuse of minors in all its forms.
Child abuse “is a tragedy!” the Pope said. “We must not tolerate child abuse!” He expressed his gratitude for the “Meter Onlus” Association, an organization founded in 1989 to work for the rights of children and combating abuse.
“We must defend the children and we must severely punish the abusers,” the pontiff said. “Thank you for your commitment, and continue courageously in this work!”
Turning to the themes of the environment and employment, Pope Francis acknowledged an upcoming international conference in Rome entitled: “Sustainable development and the most vulnerable forms of employment.”
He expressed his hope that Monday’s conference may “alert the authorities, political and economic institutions and civil society,” in order to “promote a model of development that takes into account human dignity, in full respect of labor standards and the environment.”
Before leading the crowds in the Regina Caeli prayer, Pope Francis reflected on the day’s Gospel reading which recounts Jesus, at the Last Supper, foretelling the coming of the Holy Spirit.
The pontiff notes that the Holy Spirit’s mission to deepen the disciples’ understanding of the Gospel as they spread proclaim it throughout the world, and to “awaken the memory” of Jesus’ words.
While Jesus “already communicated everything he wanted to entrust to the Apostles with Him, the Word incarnate,” the Pope said, the Holy Spirit reminds them how to put these teachings into practice in “concrete circumstances of life.”
“It is precisely what is happening today in the Church,” the Pope continued. The Church is “guided by the light and strength of the Holy Spirit, in order that it may bring to everyone the gift of salvation: that is, the love and mercy of God.”
“We are not alone: Jesus is near us, among us, within us!” Pope Francis said. It is through the gift of the Holy Spirit that we “can establish a living relationship with Him, the Crucified and Risen One.”
“The Spirit, poured out in us through the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, it acts in our lives. He guides us in the way we think, act,” how to know the difference between write and wrong. “It helps us to practice charity of Jesus, his gift of self to others, especially those most in need.”