Pope Francis Tells World Leaders They Must 'Fix Problems Plaguing the Middle East'
Ahead of his trip to Mexico, Pope Francis prayed that the international community would aid Syrian refugees seeking asylum in the West.
The pontiff made his comments during his weekly Angelus Address from St. Peter's Square, calling on the "generous solidarity" of the world to help those suffering in the war-torn Middle East.
Francis told the audience gathered at the Vatican that he was concerned by "the dramatic fate of civilian populations involved in heavy fighting in Syria [who] are forced to leave everything behind to escape the horrors of war."
"I hope that, with generous solidarity, they are lent the necessary help to ensure their survival and dignity and I appeal to the international community to not save any effort to urgently bring [the parties] to the negotiating table," the pope added.
A "political solution of the conflict will be able to guarantee a future of reconciliation and peace in that beloved and martyred country, for which I invite you to pray a lot," the pope added.
The religious leader has made the plight of Syrian migrants one of his central concerns in the past several months, as evidenced through his January meeting with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani at the Vatican.
During their meeting, the pope encouraged the leader to use his powerful position to help fix the issues "plaguing the Middle East," including terrorism, arms trafficking, and the immigrant crisis.
The two "delved into the conclusion and application of the nuclear accord, and the important role that Iran is called upon to play, together with other countries of the region, was highlighted," the Vatican said in a statement, adding that Rouhani was encouraged to follow a leadership role that "[fosters] adequate political solutions to the issues plaguing the Middle East, fighting the spread of terrorism and arms trafficking."
Sunday's Angelus Address comes just days before the pope travels to Mexico on Friday, where he is expected to discuss the country's war against drug trafficking and government corruption.
"You are living your little piece of war," the pontiff said in an address to Mexicans via the Notimex news agency last week.
"The Mexico of violence, the Mexico of corruption, the Mexico of drug trafficking, the Mexico of cartels, is not the Mexico that our mother [the Virgin Mary] wants," he continued, adding "I, of course, will not cover any of that up."
Francis also plans to address the western migrant issue during his Mexico visit, as he is scheduled to attend a prayer ceremony on the border of the Central American country and the U.S.
The Diocese of El Paso recently confirmed that the pope will hold a "modest" gathering with immigrants, some of whom are undocumented, during his visit.
The Catholic leader will reportedly stand on the Mexico side of the Rio Grande river and pray with immigrants standing on the U.S. side.
"We are working with federal agencies to have a modest border gathering of refugees and victims of violence to receive a blessing from Pope Francis. We refer to the group as our 'Francis VIPs,'" the diocese said last week.
"These will be the very people that the pope is coming to celebrate. Through the Holy Father's visit, we hope to shine light on our local migrants and refugees, highlighting the beautiful collaboration our border communities have established in order to serve all of our brothers and sisters," the diocese added.