On the flight back from Korea to Rome, Pope Francis answered questions put to him by journalists travelling with him aboard the papal plane. Among other subjects like the possibility of the unification of the Koreas or plans for future foreign trips, the Pope spoke about the Holy Land and Irak.
Speaking about the Invocation for Peace in the Holy Land that recently took place in the Vatican in the presence of the leaders of Palestine and Israel, Pope Francis said “it was not a failure”. He said the event sprung from the political leaders themselves, who could not find the right place to do it. He revealed that initially they wanted to organize it when the Pope was in the Holy Land in May in a neutral venue like the Nunciature.
But that would have posed problems as the president of the State of Palestine would have had to enter Israel and it was not easy. So they said to me: “Let’s do it in the Vatican!” the Pope said. They are both men of peace, he said. They are convinced that the only way forward is the way of negotiation and dialogue. “And today that door is still open, he said, were there to open the door of prayer. Peace, Francis said, is a gift and it was important to show humanity that the way of negotiation and dialogue is important, and it is not possible without prayer. Today, the Pope said, we cannot see that door through the smoke of the bombs, but it is open.
Answering questions regarding the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities by fundamentalists of the Islamic State (IS), the Pope said that “it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor”. And he underlined the word “halt” pointing out that does not mean to “bomb”. He said the methods used to halt the aggressor are to be evaluated. The Pope also pointed out that in these cases we must not forget “how many times with the excuse of halting the unjust aggressor (…) have powerful nations taken possession of peoples and waged a war of conquest!” A single nation, he said, cannot judge how to stop an unjust aggressor, and he pointed to the United Nations as the right venue to discuss the issue. Pope Francis also pointed out that persecuted Christians are close to his heart but he underlined the fact that there are also other minorities suffering persecution, and they all have the same rights.
Regarding his availability to travel to Kurdistan to be with the fleeing refugees, Pope Francis said he is ready to do so if it is deemed a good thing to do. At the moment, however, he pointed to the various initiatives undertaken by the Vatican, such as sending Cardinal Fernando Filoni, writing to the UN Secretary General, and writing a personal communiqué that was sent to all the nunciatures and governments in the area.