Pope: Continuation of Israeli-Palestinian conflict could harm region's Christians

At summit, Vatican promotes peace as well as use of military force to protect Christians from Islamic extremism.

Pope Francis (photo credit: REUTERS)
Pope Francis
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Pope Francis stated on Saturday night that a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is crucial for stability and peace in the Middle East, during a summit held at the Vatican. 
“The recent conflict in Gaza recalls that the situation is serious and difficult, but it is necessary to renew diplomatic efforts for a just and lasting solution that respects the rights of both parties to the conflict,” the Pope said.
Should it remain unsolved, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will inevitably have great regional and global consequences, including consequences for Christians in neighboring countries, the Pontiff added. 
During the same conference, Pope Francis reaffirmed that military force is justified in the fight against Islamic militants in the Middle East, stating that Christians in the region had the right to peacefully return to their homeland.
Earlier in the week, Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, told the United Nations General Assembly that the military intervention and use of force to protect Christians in the Middle East was both “licit and urgent.”
The Vatican’s approval of the use of multilateral military intervention to stop Islamic militants is especially significant because the Vatican rarely encourages use of force. The church does, however, allow for wars in which the ultimate purpose is to protect the innocent.
“There are no religious, political or economic factors that can justify what is happening to hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women, and children,” Pope Francis said during the summit. “We are deeply united in our prayers for intercession and in charity towards these suffering members of the body of Christ.”
At the conclusion of the gathering, the ambassadors proclaimed that both Muslim and Christian leaders in the region must work to stop the "instrumentalization of religion to justify violence."
The three-day gathering invited ambassadors from the Middle East and North Africa  to the Vatican for meetings on the status of Christians in the Middle East. Leaders discussed protecting the 7.5 million Christians in the region from persecution by extremists groups, such as the Islamic State.
Syrian and Iraqi Christians have experienced the most incidences of religious persecution against Christian minorities thus far.
“Peace is to be sought by means of a 'regional' and comprehensive solution that does not overlook the interests of any of the parties,” the Vatican said.

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