Pope Francis condemned on Thursday the “ocean of pain” engulfing Syria and Iraq, where civil war and the advance of Islamic State militants have forced millions from their homes.
Addressing a meeting of Catholic charities and bishops who work in the Middle East, Francis described the conflicts in the two countries as “one of the most overwhelming human tragedies of recent decades”.
The Argentine pontiff called for a non-violent solution to the fighting, saying that unlike past atrocities, the modern violence was broadcast live by the media.
“No one can pretend not to know! Everyone is aware that this war weighs in an increasingly unbearable way on the shoulders of the poor,” Francis said.
Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, where millions of refugees have arrived in the more than four years that Syria has been at war, have received them “generously”, but “the international community seems unable to find adequate solutions,” he said.
An emergency meeting of European Union ministers this week failed to agree on a plan to share out some 160,000 newly arrived refugees – a measure aimed at relieving pressure on the region’s border countries like Italy, Greece and Hungary.
Francis also mourned the plight of Christians in Syria and Iraq, saying they were oppressed because of their faith, driven from their land, imprisoned and killed.
During a separate address on Thursday, he said an Iraqi priest had given him a small cross that had belonged to a priest whose throat was cut for refusing to renounce Jesus Christ, which he now carried with him.
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