(Photo: Reuters/Bassam Khabieh)
Pope Francis has condemned the current civil war in Syria where hundreds of people, many of them children, are suspected to have been killed in a chemical weapons attack last week, while another Vatican official said the country has "descended into hell."
"With great suffering and concern I continue to follow the situation in Syria," Francis said following the Angelus prayer at the Vatican on Sunday.
"The increase in violence in a war between brothers, with the proliferation of massacres and atrocities, that we all have been able to see in the terrible images of these days, leads me once again raise my voice that the clatter of arms may cease. It is not confrontation that offers hope to resolve problems, but rather the ability to meet and dialogue."
World leaders, including President Barack Obama, are deciding on a course of action after several reports came out from Syria last week indicating that hundreds of civilians had been killed by a chemical attack. The Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad has denied responsibility for the casualties, however, and has warned western powers against military strikes on its soil.
The leader of the Roman Catholic Church urged the international community to be "more sensitive" to the situation and help the Syrian nation find a solution "to a war that sows destruction and death."
"From the bottom of my heart, I would like to express my closeness in prayer and solidarity with all the victims of this conflict, with all those who suffer, especially children, and I invite you to keep alive the hope of peace," Francis added, and called on Christians around the world to join together in prayer.
Another top Vatican official, Archbishop Mario Zenari, Apostolic Nuncio in Syria, added on Monday that the international community has a responsibility to respond to the crisis.
"I heard the cry of the children, those innocent victims, a cry to heaven and cry to the international community: we cannot remain silent before this cry of theirs, of this appeal," Zenari said, and expressed his hopes that that "crimes such as these do not ever happen again."
The archbishop noted that ever since the conflict began over two years ago, it is the ordinary Syrians that have had to pay the highest price; UN statistics estimate that over 100,000 people have died in the crisis.
"When the sounds of war made themselves felt here in Damascus, I had the impression that Syria was starting its descent into hell. Today, after the latest facts, we are wondering whether we have reached the bottom of this abyss."