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September 6, 2013 at 6:40 AM

Pope Francis joins those opposing airstrikes against Syria

As members of Congress weigh a possible endorsement of a U.S. military attack on Syria over chemical weapons use, the list of critics grows.

Administration officials, including Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel have been working Capitol Hill to win support for President Obama’s plan. Elsewhere the opponents are speaking out.

Pope Francis (AP Photo/Luca Zennaro)

Pope Francis
(AP Photo/Luca Zennaro)

Pope Francis has declared Saturday a day of “fasting and prayer for peace in Syria, the Middle East and throughout the world.” In a letter to the leaders meeting in Russia at the Group of 20 economic summit he made a pointed request for those assembled to find an alternative path with Syria:

“To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution. Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community.” The complete letter is available via the National Catholic Reporter website.

As the Pope is making his concerns known, others in that international community are expressing their concerns. French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said France would not take military action if the United States did not act. France’s Parliament is taking up the topic of military strikes against Syria. This comes after the British Parliament refused to back the country’s prime minister on military support for the U.S.

Meanwhile, Ban Ki-moon,  the United Nations secretary general, expressed his doubts about the value of further military action, and said he wanted the U.N. Security Council involved in any decision to use force against Syria, according to a story in The New York Times.

No one can quite believe or accept that retaliation against Syria for use of chemical weapons against its own people can or will be a self-contained punishment with no consequences. Two years after the Syrian civil war started, after 100,000 have died and millions fled the country, the timing of this international act of discipline is among the puzzles.

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