Pope Francis prays for dialogue as tensions mount between the U.S. and Iran

Mourners touch the casket of Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani during his funeral procession in Tehran Jan. 6, 2020. The military leader was killed Jan. 3 in a U.S. drone airstrike at Baghdad International Airport. (CNS photo/Khamenei website handout via Reuters)

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis led pilgrims in prayers for peace as tensions between the United States and Iran escalated following the assassination of a top Iranian general.

Several days after Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran's supreme leader, warned of "harsh retaliation" for the Jan. 3 U.S. drone attack that killed General Qassem Soleimani, the pope said that "a terrible air of tension is felt in many parts of the world."

Advertisement

"War only brings death and destruction. I call on all parties to keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-control and avoid the shadow of enmity," the pope said after praying the Angelus prayer with pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square Jan. 5.

Pope Francis: “War only brings death and destruction. I call on all parties to keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-control and avoid the shadow of enmity.”

[Don’t miss the latest news from the church and the world. Sign up for our daily newsletter.]

He then led the pilgrims in a moment of silent prayer so "that the Lord may give us the grace" of peace.

The drone strike, which killed Soleimani and six other people, including an Iraqi militia commander, caused a sharp escalation in already tense relations after President Donald Trump pulled out of nuclear deal with Iran last year.

In an interview with CNN, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo defended Trump's decision and said that Soleimani "was actively plotting in the region to take actions, the big action as he described it, that would have put dozens if not hundreds of American lives at risk. We know it was imminent."

The pope led the pilgrims in a moment of silent prayer so “that the Lord may give us the grace” of peace.

Shortly after the Iranian general's death, the United States deployed an additional 3,000 troops to the Middle East to stave off any retaliatory attacks against forces in the region.

However, the attack was seen by world leaders as an unnecessary provocation that could further destabilize the Middle East.

Speaking to Vatican News Jan. 3, Archbishop Leo Boccardi, apostolic nuncio to Iran, said the assassination "creates apprehension and shows us how difficult it is to build and believe in peace."

"The appeal is to lower tension, to call everyone to negotiation and to believe in dialogue knowing that, has history has always shown us, that war and weapons aren't the solution to the problems afflicting the world today," Archbishop Boccardi said.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

[Explore America’s in-depth coverage of Pope Francis.]

Advertisement

The latest from america

Tucker Redding, S.J. guides listeners through contemplative prayer in this 10-part mini-series "Imagine: A Guide to Jesuit Prayer."
Tucker Redding, SJFebruary 26, 2020
We are always tempted to make faith into something that we handle, not a way by which we surrender.
Terrance KleinFebruary 26, 2020
How perfectly the prophet Joel summons us to Lent with those two adverbs: “Even now, says the Lord, return to me with your whole heart.”
Terrance KleinFebruary 26, 2020
Join us throughout the Lenten season as we offer a special presentation of the Gospel, Passion and Resurrection narratives. 
Isabelle SenechalFebruary 26, 2020