Pope Francis on Thursday urged the U.S. and Iran to avoid escalation and pursue “dialogue and self-restraint” to avert a wider conflict in the Middle East.
The Pope’s appeal was his first direct comment on the current crisis in a yearly speech that has come to be known as his “State of the World” address to ambassadors accredited to the Vatican.
Speaking for nearly 50 minutes in the Vatican’s frescoed Sala Regia, the 83-year-old Roman Catholic leader offered a mostly grim overview of 2019, speaking of wars, global warming, xenophobia toward migrants and the danger of nuclear weapons.
“Particularly troubling are the signals coming from the entire region following the heightening of tensions between Iran and the U.S.,” Francis told the diplomats from more than 180 states.
He said the tensions risked “compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert”.
“I, therefore, renew my appeal that all the interested parties avoid an escalation of the conflict and keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint, in full respect of international law,” he said.