(AsiaNews) - The visit of solidarity by Eastern Catholic and Orthodox patriarchs to Erbil, capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, went beyond the
traditional pastoral framework and protocol. In the wake
of the meeting with Kurdish President Massoud Barzani,
the focus moved to the legitimacy of the
use of force against jihadist
aggression and the return of Christians driven from Mosul and the villages of the
visit ended on Wednesday
with a press conference at the end of which Patriarchs Beshara al Rahi and Gregorios III returned to Lebanon, whilst Syriac Catholic Patriarch Younan and Syriac
Orthodox Patriarch Ephrem Karim stayed on a little longer since their Churches, unlike the Maronite and Greek Catholic Churches, have faithful in Iraq.
after meeting President
Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdistan region and its Prime Minister (and nephew),
the conference had nothing conventional.
for action corresponds to the Catholic teaching on the
right to self-defence.
are raising the alarm," Syriac Catholic Patriarch
Yousef III Younan told L'Orient-Le Jour. "There is
no time to lose. Our survival in Mesopotamia is at stake. Free
nations who signed the Charter of Human Rights should have the courage to live up to its principles. We call
for an international intervention to
defend us, not to conquer. We
have the right to defend ourselves and we ask to be defended.
The international community did well
in Kosovo despite Russia's opposition
at the time. We will try, with Pope Francis to
have our right for a defensive military intervention recognised to deal with
the jihadi groups that threaten
its part, the Vatican on Wednesday clarified a statement made by Francis during
his press conference on board the
plane that took him back from Seoul.
occasion, Pope Francis said that in case of "unjust aggression"
it was "lawful to halt the unjust aggressor." He was "not saying bombing, making war [against him], but halting him. The means
by which one can halt him should
be evaluated." Likewise, "A single nation cannot judge how
to halt an unjust aggressor."
"After the Second world War came the idea of the
United Nations. That is where we must discuss [the
issue] and say if there is an unjust aggressor? If that is the case, then
how do we stop him?"
this spirit that the international
community must be challenged, said Maronite Patriarch
Beshara al Rahi.
believe letting the jihadists of the Islamic
State do whatever they want would be a disgrace," he said. "That a terrorist group of
diabolical inspiration is left free to act
is an unprecedented scandal. We call on the international community to assume its responsibilities.
It is unacceptable that a group of
this kind can oppress
peoples, whilst the international community fails to defend a group that cannot defend itself."
Wahhabism called into question
For his part, Patriarch
Younan implicitly pointed the finger at
Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi doctrine as the inspiration for the Islamic State. "This group
was born thanks to such support," he
said, and now "people are trying to shirk
their responsibility in this situation".
close to the patriarchal delegation said that, during the meeting with President Barzani, the latter told Church leaders that the
Peshmerga were ready to do their duty to defend Iraq's Christians, but that Kurdistan must be properly equipped in terms
told members of the delegation that jihadists mined roads
and the houses Christians abandoned
as they fled their villages. At present,
the Peshmerga lack the expertise
to clear the mines.
his part, Syriac Orthodox Patriarch Ephrem Karim demanded
nothing less than an autonomous region
for Christians of Iraq, within an Iraqi Federal
Republic, which the Iraqi constitution allows. Similarly, he said that Christians should be armed, which some
parties in Kurdistan have already
called for in light of recent events.
A combative patriarch
also called on Ban Ki-moon to
visit Iraq, inviting the pope to make a bolder
use of his influence on behalf of Iraqi Christians. He also called for the liberation of Mosul and adding that in some cases residents
from some villages in the Nineveh
Plains could already return home.
directly challenging his fellow prelate, Greek Catholic Patriarch Gregorios
III spoke in favour of friendliness
and living together as alternatives to such a nationalist
at the same press conference that marked the end of the patriarchal visit, Patriarch
Sako said that the Eastern Churches are a
group of "small Churches, but
by virtue of their unity, they form a Church that is big and strong." (Fady