VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Francis strongly condemned a shocking
chemical attack in Syria that left some 70 people, including at least 10 children, dead.
"We are horrified by the latest events in Syria. I
strongly deplore the unacceptable massacre that took place yesterday in the Idlib
province, where dozens of civilians, including many children, were killed,"
the pope said April 5 before concluding his weekly general audience in St.
Images of dead men, women and children lying on the streets
provoked international outrage following the attack April 4 in a rebel-held area.
Western leaders have accused Syrian President Bashar Assad and the country's
military of perpetrating the attack, based on reports that warplanes dropped chemical bombs in the
According to The New York Times, the Syrian military denied
attacking the town and said the attack was caused by insurgents who blame the
Syrian government for similar attacks "every time they fail to achieve the
goals of their sponsors."
Pope Francis encouraged those helping with relief efforts in Idlib province, and he appealed to
world leaders to put an end to the violence.
to the conscience of those who have political responsibility at the local and
international level, so that this tragedy may come to an end and relief may
come to that beloved population who for too long have been devastated by
war," the pope said.
occurred the same day representatives from more than 70 countries were
gathering in Brussels for an April 4-5 conference on resolving the humanitarian
crisis in Syria and to discuss ways to support a peaceful resolution to the
Paul Gallagher, Vatican secretary for relations with states, was among the
representatives and addressed the conference April 5.
The Holy See,
he said, "remains deeply concerned about the tremendous human suffering,
affecting millions of innocent children and other civilians who remain deprived
of essential humanitarian aid, medical facilities and education."
He called for
humanitarian laws to "be fully respected," especially "with
regard to the protection of civilian populations" and the "conditions
and treatment of prisoners."
Holy See invites all parties to the Syrian conflict to spare no effort to end
the seemingly endless cycle of violence, to restore that sense of solidarity
that is the basis of social cohesion and peaceful coexistence," Archbishop
The pope also said his thoughts and prayers were with the victims
of the bombing of a metro station in St. Petersburg, Russia, that killed 14 people and left 50
Chaos erupted April 3 when a bomb was detonated in a subway
train. Police said the bomber was Akbarzhon Dzhalilov, a Russian citizen born in Kyrgyzstan. Following
the attack, security
forces said a second bomb was found at a nearby station, but it had failed to
"As I entrust to God's mercy those who have tragically
died, I express my spiritual closeness to their families and to all who suffer
because of this tragic event," Pope Francis said.