Pope Calls for Reform in Syria

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — The civilian unrest ripping through Syria and other Arab countries is a sign that people want a better future, Pope Benedict XVI told Syria’s new ambassador to the Vatican.

“These events also demonstrate the urgent need for genuine reforms in political, economic and social life,” he said in a written address June 9 to Hussan Edin Aala, the new ambassador.

Reform and social progress, however, must not be brought about through actions that are discriminatory, intolerant or violent, but must be achieved in ways that respect the rights and dignity of all individuals and communities as well as respect truth and peaceful coexistence, the pope said.

Government authorities should be guided by such principles and take into account the hopes and needs of their citizens as well as international mandates, he added.

The pope made his comments just as the U.N. Security Council was discussing a draft resolution calling on the Syrian government to end its repression and violence against protesters, allow humanitarian access and introduce reforms in the country.

Fearing a deadly government crackdown, more than a thousand Syrians fled to neighboring Turkey overnight 8 June.

The Syrian government of President Bashar al–Assad has used violence against demonstrators and arrested thousands of political opponents. Hundreds of people have been killed and injured in the violence. An opposition coalition has called for a new constitution that ends the al-Assad family’s four–decade hold on power.

Pope Benedict said “a solution must be found” if peace is to come to the whole region.

Viable solutions, however, are the fruit of multilateral discussion and compromise — not unilateral decisions imposed by force, he said.

Negotiated solutions must take into account “the legitimate aspirations and interests of the various people involved” and recognize that people are suffering, he said.

The pope’s appeal came during a formal ceremony at the Vatican in which he welcomed new ambassadors from Syria, Ghana, New Zealand, Belize, Equatorial Guinea and Moldova.

The pope presented each ambassador with a special message for his or her own country, then addressed all six ambassadors together, highlighting the church’s concern for environmental protection, particularly as it relates to safeguarding human life and dignity.

Pope Benedict said the world must change the way it views nature from being just a resource to exploit to seeing the earth as a home warranting respect and care.

People must quickly adapt a new lifestyle “that respects the alliance between humanity and nature, without which the human family risks extinction,” he said.

The number and extent of natural catastrophes that occurred the first half of the year should make nations stand up to their duty to protect human life and recognize that people must not be “dominated by technology and become its subject.”

Nations must see “human ecology” is the priority, he said. Adopting lifestyles that respect the environment as well as supporting research and practices that safeguard creation and do not pose a danger to humanity must be political and economic priorities, he said.

Technology has had the upper hand too long, objectifying mankind and bringing “self-deception and misery” to the world, the pope said. Technology must be guided by solid ethics and be used to help nature thrive according to God’s plan with the good of the whole human family as its goal, he said.

In his message to Ambassador George Robert Furness Troup of New Zealand, the pope again expressed his solidarity with those who are “still suffering from the devastating earthquake” that hit Christchurch in February.

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