U.S. Bishops urge President Obama to avoid military intervention in Syria

2013-09-06 Vatican Radio

(Vatican Radio) U.S. Catholic Bishops have written to President Obama urging him not to resort to military intervention but instead work to end the violence in Syria through a political solution. The letter was signed by the president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Richard Pates of Des Moine, Chair of the Committee on International Justice and Peace. Susy Hodges spoke to Bishop Pates and asked him how optimistic they were that Obama would heed their plea to avoid a military strike.

Listen to the full interview with Bishop Pates:

Bishops Pates concedes that President Obama “seems quite determined” to carry out a military strike and so the bishops “have a lot of work to do to try to convince him that it would be counter-productive.” When asked if ordinary Catholics are also opposed to the planned military intervention in Syria, Bishop Pates says they “are giving us strong support” and notes that many Americans have got in the back of their minds “the memory of Iraq (the U.S. military intervention there) and the “debacle” in that nation. He says he and the other bishops fear that a military intervention in Syria could spark a broader war and could cause “additional deaths”.

Turning to Pope Francis’ call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria and the world on Saturday the 7th, Bishop Pates says this “has been well-received in the U.S. and the event is being marked by the U.S. Catholic Church “in different ways and approaches” throughout the nation.

The following is the full text of a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) released on September 4th.

WASHINGTON—President Obama should not resort to military intervention, but instead work to end the violence in Syria through a political solution, wrote the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and the chairman of USCCB’s Committee on International Justice and Peace in a September 4 letter. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, joined President Obama in condemning the use of chemical weapons in Syria, declaring these “indiscriminate weapons have no place in the arsenals of the family of nations.”

They noted that more than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives, more than 2 million have fled the country as refugees, and more than 4 million within Syria have been driven from their homes by the ongoing conflict.

“Our focus is on the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Syria and on saving lives by ending the conflict, not fueling it,” the bishops wrote. They echoed the appeals of Pope Francis and bishops in the Middle East who “have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences.”

Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Pates assured President Obama of their prayers and offered their appreciation for the “patience and restraint” the Administration has exercised on the complex situation in Syria.

“We ask the United States to work urgently and tirelessly with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities,” they wrote.

The full text of the letter to President Obama is available online: