Pope Francis has said that war is never the right way to stop the injustices of the world and warned that it always leads to further problems, seemingly distancing himself from supporting U.S. airstrikes against terror group ISIS.
"War is never a satisfactory way to right injustices," the Roman Catholic Church leader said during an inter-faith colloqium hosted in Belgium by the St. Egido community, AFP reported on Sunday.
"War leads people into a spiral of violence which becomes difficult to control. It destroys what it has taken generations to establish and leads the way to even worse conflicts and injustices."
When asked directly in August whether he supports U.S. airstrikes on ISIS targets, Francis told journalists:
"In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor," the Vatican leader said. "I underscore the verb 'stop.' I'm not saying 'bomb' or 'make war,' just 'stop.' And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated."
ISIS, or the Islamic State as the group is also called, has captured several cities across Iraq and Syria, and has been accused by the United Nations of committing crimes such as mass rapes and beheadings. The Islamic militants have targeted religious minorities, including many Christians, forcing thousands to flee their ancestral homes.
Following the release of a video last week that showed ISIS beheading American journalist Steven Sotloff, the second American journalist to be murdered in the space of two weeks, President Barack Obama vowed that the U.S. will seek to "degrade and destroy" the terror group.
"Those who make the mistake of harming Americans will learn that we will not forget ... that our reach is long and that justice will be served," Obama said in a statement.
He added: "Our objective is clear. That is to degrade and destroy (ISIS) so it's no longer a threat. We can accomplish that. It's going to take some time, it's going to take some effort."
The U.S. has hit a number of ISIS targets in Iraq with air strikes, and has supplied arms to the Iraqi government and the region of Kurdistan, who are fighting back against the Islamic militants.
Francis has reached out several times to the persecuted Christian community in Iraq, and said that the Church embraces her children "like all mothers."
"She 'raises up the fallen child, heals his wounds, seeks the lost … and defends those who are defenseless and persecuted,'" Francis said on Wednesday, according to Vatican Radio.
"Especially these last of you, the defenseless and persecuted, that you are in the heart of the Church; the Church suffers with you and is proud of you; you are her strength and the concrete and authentic witness of her message of salvation, of forgiveness and love," the pontiff added.
Last week an Iraqi priest helping refugees who are fleeing ISIS said that Francis gave him a phone call to tell the priest that he is always with him in prayer.
"'I read your letter,' said Pope Francis. He said he was very sorry for everything that was happening to us and he said, 'Know that I am with you in prayer always. I never forget you,'" Fr. Behnam Benoka said, recalling the pontiff's phone call, which was in a response to a letter the priest had sent to the Vatican detailing the "miserable" situation of the refugees.