Pope Francis on Iraq

by Kathryn Jean Lopez

On his plane ride back from Korea, Pope Francis talked to the press. Here’s what he said about Iraq, according to Frank Rocca’s write-up

“In these cases where there is unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ’stop’; I don’t say bomb, make war — stop him. The means by which he may be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit, but we nevertheless need to remember how many times, using this excuse of stopping an unjust aggressor, the powerful nations have dominated other peoples, made a real war of conquest. A single nation cannot judge how to stop this, how to stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there arose the idea of the United Nations. That is where we should discuss: ‘Is there an unjust aggressor? It seems there is. How do we stop him?’ But only that, nothing more.”

The pope said his recent appeal to the U.N. to “take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway in Iraq” was one of a series of measures he had considered with Vatican officials, including his decision to send Cardinal Fernando Filoni to the region to meet with church and government officials and refugees.

“In the end we said, should it be necessary, when we get back from Korea I can go there,” he said. “At this moment it is not the best thing to do, but I am willing.”

This context — here from Vatican Radio’s summary of the press conference — also is important in understanding him on this and just about everything — it helps in remembering he’s a pastor on the world stage, not some celebrity with a cult following: 

“When you find yourself face-to-face with pain and sorrow, you must do what your heart tells you to do,” the Pope said. He pointed out that he is a priest and he feels close to those who suffer. His closeness, he explained, brings consolation, not solutions; and he recalled that when he was Archbishop of Buenos Aires, he was there to bring comfort to the many victims of two terrible disasters (in a discotheque fire, which killed 193 young people, and in a train accident, which killed 120). In Korea, when someone pointed out he continued to wear the yellow ribbon of solidarity for the victims of the ferry disaster. he answered: “You cannot be neutral before the pain of your brothers and sisters”.

He said that he “would like” to visit Philadelphia next September for the World Meeting on Families and added that he has invites from D.C. and N.Y.

He also suggested he might go to the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico during the same trip (her history a treasure of spirituality in the Americas, something John Paul II stressed in his Ecclesia in America). 

UPDATE: Gerard O’Connell has transcribed and translated the press conference in English for America magazine.