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Vatican Foreign Secretary meets with ambassadors to discuss Syria


(Vatican Radio) The Vatican’s Secretary for Foreign Relations Archbishop Dominque Mamberti has met with world ambassadors accredited to the Holy See to discuss Pope Francis’ initiative calling for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Saturday September 7th.

In a briefing for journalists about Thursday’s meeting, Director of the Vatican Press Office, Fr. Federico Lombardi, denied “in the most complete manner” that Pope Francis had telephoned Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad. Fr. Lombardi was responding to reports in Italian media which he described as “devoid of foundation.”

Speaking of Archbishop Mamberti’s meeting with 71 ambassadors, Fr. Lombardi illustrated a number of points raised by the Foreign Secretary regarding the Holy See’s position on the conflict in Syria.

In referring to these, Fr. Lombardi said the cessation of violence is the first vital step that must be taken in order to then initiate a real dialogue and work towards negotiated solutions. In general terms, he said, dialogue should be restored and reconciliation encouraged among Syria’s entire population. The Holy See hopes to see national unity preserved in Syria, he added, so that there is no deconstruction of the country into different zones for various groups. The country's territorial integrity must be guaranteed.

The Holy See also focuses on the need to “respect all minorities, including Christians” and for religious liberty for everyone in Syria. All groups, especially those to occupy future positions of responsibility in Syria, must offer guarantees that there will be posts for all.

The other priorities outlined regard the concept of citizenship, which the Archbishop said should be observed “on the basis of which everyone, regardless of their ethnic or religious membership, has the same citizen’s standard and dignity, with equal rights and duties, free “to profess publicly their own religion and to contribute to the common good” (Benedict XVI’s Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 7, 2013).”

The Archbishop said that a cause of particular concern to the Holy See is “the growing presence in Syria of extremist groups, often coming from other countries.” He said this means emphasis should be placed on “exhorting the population and also opposition groups to distance themselves from such extremists, to isolate them and to oppose terrorism openly and clearly.”

To journalists, Fr. Lombardi said the ambassadors returned to the theme of minorities, ecumenism and the need for educating for a culture of peace. He recalled that was the intention of Pope Francis in calling for a day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria.

Archbishop Mamberti insisted, he said, on the importance that the Pope gives to “the very specific moment of prayer, the spiritual moment” which will be manifest in Saturday’s day of prayer for peace.