VATICAN CITY, March 20, 2011 (KATAKAMI.COM / WASHINGTON POST / AP) — Pope Benedict XVI issued an urgent appeal Sunday to military and political leaders to consider the safety of Libyan civilians and ensure they have access to emergency aid in his first public comments on the conflict, as reported by The Washington Post.
Benedict said the outbreak of hostilities had sparked “great fear and alarm in me” and said he was praying for peace in the region.
Benedict didn’t identify which political or military leaders he was referring to in comments at his traditional Sunday blessing. Rather, he directed his appeal to “those who have the political and military responsibility to take to heart the safety and security of citizens and guarantee that they have access to humanitarian aid.”
The Vatican has been remarkably quiet about the mounting tensions in Libya and U.N. Security Council decision to authorize military force to halt Moammar Gadhafi’s crackdown: the Vatican newspaper has reported on the developments matter-of-factly, without commentary.
That was not the case eight years ago in the run-up to the Iraq war, when Pope John Paul II voiced emphatic opposition to U.S.-led military action and sent an envoy to Washington to try to avert it.
Recently, the Vatican has been chastened for what some in the Arab world considered interference in its internal affairs: The pre-eminent institute of Islamic learning in the Sunni Muslim world froze talks with the Vatican earlier this year after Benedict called for better protection of Christians in Egypt.
Benedict’s appeal had followed the New Year’s bombing on a Coptic Christian church in Alexandria that killed 21 people. (*)