Syrian women light candles before attending a prayer service at the Melkite Catholic patriarchate in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 7. People worldwide heeded Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.

CNS PHOTO | KHALED AL HARIRI, REUTERS

Syrian women light candles before attending a prayer service at the Melkite Catholic patriarchate in Damascus, Syria, Sept. 7. People worldwide heeded Pope Francis' call for a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria.

September 16, 2013
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE

NEW YORK – Military strikes on Syria are unjustified, said the Vatican nuncio to the United Nations.

Archbishop Francis Chullikatt said any military strike will create a far larger humanitarian disaster for people already suffering from hunger, displacement and critical lack of medical care.

Instead, during a Mass Sept. 7 at St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York, Chullikatt urged that world leaders work toward a "cessation of violence, not an escalation of violence" in Syria.

The Mass was celebrated in conjunction with Pope Francis' request for a worldwide day of prayer and fasting for world peace, and particularly for a peaceful resolution to Syria's civil war.

"A cease-fire, even if only partial, would permit humanitarian assistance to reach at least the hardest hit areas of the country," Chullikatt said.

"Helping Syria means finding political and humanitarian solutions through dialogue and reconciliation, not intrusionary military tactics.

"As winds of war howl around Syria in this moment, we urge building and restoring peace through all options and alternatives, not yet exhausted. How can we think of military strikes as the only alternative?" he said.

"How could we possibly remain indifferent to the humanitarian disaster that strikes would leave in their aftermath? Who could take the responsibility for such a calamity?

"Who will shelter the refugees and displaced, those orphaned and widowed?"

Chullikatt said escalating the violence could double the number of Syrians displaced by violence. He suggested that as much as half of the population of Syria will need assistance by the end of 2013.

The archbishop said the Catholic Church is tasked with announcing God's peace "and this is why we gather at this critical moment in prayer and fasting."

"The failure to place the human being at the centre of our concerns, including in instances of humanitarian intervention, dehumanizes us and is profoundly counterproductive.

"Would that we could invest our resources and efforts in people as willingly as we do in the weapons of war," he said.