Papal observer urges U.N. to take steps to end violence in Syria

A Free Syrian Army fighter throws an improvised hand grenade toward forces loyal to Syria's President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor May 15. Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations, conveyed to the U.N. General Assembly May 1 5 Pope Francis' "grave concern" about the "unceasing spiral of violence" in Syria and expressed hope the international community can facilitate a process to bring peace to that nation and secure the release of victims of kidnapping, including a Greek Or thodox bishop and a Syriac Orthodox bishop. (CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)
A Free Syrian Army fighter throws an improvised hand grenade toward forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Deir al-Zor May 15. Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt, papal nuncio to the United Nations, conveyed to the U.N. General Assembly May 1 5 Pope Francis’ “grave concern” about the “unceasing spiral of violence” in Syria and expressed hope the international community can facilitate a process to bring peace to that nation and secure the release of victims of kidnapping, including a Greek Or thodox bishop and a Syriac Orthodox bishop. (CNS photo/Khalil Ashawi, Reuters)

UNITED NATIONS (CNS) — World leaders must step up to call for an end to the escalating violence in war-torn Syria to stop the killing of innocent people and halt human rights violations, said the Vatican’s permanent observer to the United Nations.

Archbishop Francis A. Chullikatt told the world body May 15 that the Vatican continues to be gravely concerned by the situation in Syria and called upon the country’s factions to remember their obligations under international humanitarian law to guarantee safe passage for humanitarian workers and the safety of health care institutions.

The archbishop also appealed to the international community to help secure the release of kidnap victims, including Syriac Orthodox Metropolitan Gregorios Yohanna of Aleppo and Greek Orthodox Metropolitan Paul of Aleppo, who were abducted April 22 in northern Syria while on a humanitarian mission.

His comments came as the U.N. continued discussing a resolution to address the armed conflict in Syria.

“It is a priority that those in a position to exercise influence over the parties to the conflict call upon them to halt immediately the blood bath and the continual violations of human rights that only open the door to further retaliation and recrimination,” Archbishop Chullikatt said. “If we wish to reconstitute a peaceable society and avoid the abandonment of the Syrian people to a violent and uncertain future, a clear change of course is needed.”

Peace will come to Syria only when all of the country’s political parties and members of civil society, including representatives of religious groups, gather together to chart a course for the future, he said.

The rebuilding of Syria must be based on “the principles of human rights and fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and good governance of public affairs, together with respect for the diverse ethnic and religious identities,” he said.

“Before the judgment of history and of anyone of good will, it behooves all individuals and state or international institutions to facilitate the closure of this painful chapter of Syrian history once and for all, and to find a lasting solution worthy of the dignity of the people of that great nation,” the archbishop added.