Pope Francis today denounced the horrific “massacre” in northwestern Syria, on April 4, allegedly due to the use of chemical weapons, that killed an estimated 100 persons and injured 400, including many children, and appealed yet again to those with “political responsibility” at both the national and international levels, to bring an end to this “tragedy” and bring relief to the population that is suffering from a war now in its sixth year.
“We are horrified at the latest events in Syria,” Francis said at the end of the public audience in St. Peter’s Square on April 5. He did not use the words “chemical arms attack,” as the international media have done, attributing it to the Syrian regime, though the latter denies that chemical weapons were used. It was the third claim of a chemical attack in Syria over the past week.
Italian media report that Sarin—a nerve gas that goes back to World War II but was banned internationally in 1993—was used in yesterday’s attack by the forces of the Assad regime against the rebels in this area. The gas was last used near Damascus in 2013, but an agreement was brokered by the United States and Russia that chemical weapons would no longer be used in this war. If indeed such weapons were used yesterday it could scuttle the efforts at the United Nations to end the war .
Pope Francis appeals “to the consciences of all those who have political responsibility, at national and international levels... [to] stop this tragedy."
Pope Francis “firmly deplored the unacceptable massacre” that took place the previous day in a town—near Khan Sheikhoun in the province of Idlib, northwestern Syria, on the border with Turkey—that caused the deaths of perhaps as many as 100 people, “among them many children.” He said he “is praying for the victims and their families.”
He then appealed “to the consciences of all those who have political responsibility, at national and international levels, so that they stop this tragedy and bring relief to that dear population that has been wracked by war for too long a time.” According to various sources including the UN, an estimated 400,000 people have been killed so far in this war, including at least 17,000 children.
Francis offered his “encouragement” to efforts of all those who, “notwithstanding insecurity and difficulty,” are trying to bring help to the inhabitants of that region.
Also, today, Pope Francis denounced the “grave attack” when a bomb exploded on a metro-train earlier this week in St. Petersburg, Russia, that led to the deaths of 14 persons and injured 50 others. Local media say the bomber was a Russian citizen from Kyrgyzstan, in Central Asia, whose motives are not yet clear.
The pope said he “entrusted all those who tragically died (in that attack) to the mercy of God” and expressed his “spiritual closeness to their families and to all those that suffer because of this dramatic event.”