Pope Francis condemned the suspected chemical weapons attack that killed over 100 people in Syria and renewed his call for an urgent political solution to end the war.
Speaking at his weekly audience at the Vatican on April 5, the pope said he was horrified by the “unacceptable” massacre of civilians, including at least 20 children, on April 4.
“I firmly deplore the unacceptable carnage that took place yesterday in Idlib province, where scores of helpless people, including many children, were killed,” the pope said.
Several countries, including the U.S., have blamed Syrian government forces for the attack in which scores of people appeared to choke to death in Khan Sheikhoun, a rebel-held area of northern Syria. The Syrian army has denied any involvement.
“We look on horrified by the recent events in Syria,” the pope told tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.
“I pray for the victims and their families, and appeal to the consciences of those with political responsibilities, both locally and internationally, to end this tragedy and bring relief to the dear people who, for too long, have been exhausted by war.”
Three new Syrian families have been given shelter by the Vatican, in a bid to aid those fleeing conflict and persecution.
A total of 13 people — from one Muslim and two Christian families — are being housed in three Vatican-owned apartments recently vacated by other refugees who have moved to more permanent accommodation in Rome.
The deadly attack occurred as 70 donor countries were meeting in Brussels, at a conference hosted by the European Union, to discuss humanitarian relief for Syria, as the conflict enters its seventh year.
Monsignor Paul Gallagher, who is responsible for the Holy See’s relations with other states, told the conference the Vatican was “deeply concerned about the tremendous human suffering” in Syria and the treatment of prisoners and detainees.
In 2016 the Catholic Church contributed $200 million in humanitarian aid to 4.6 million people in Syria and the surrounding region, Gallagher said.