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Vatican abandons plan for papal delegation to Syria

Catholic World News - November 07, 2012

The Vatican has dropped plans for a special papal mission to Syria, concluding that the trip would be too dangerous in light of the escalating conflict there.

On October 17, Pope Benedict XVI named 7 prelates, including New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan, to a special delegation that was to visit Syria. Originally the visit was scheduled for late October, but within a week Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican Secretary of State, was forced to admit that the trip had been postponed because of the turmoil in Syria.

On November 7, Pope Benedict conceded that “due to a variety of circumstances and developments, it was not possible to carry out this initiative as planned.” He announced that in lieu of the larger delegation he was sending Cardinal Robert Sarah, the president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum, to Lebanon, where he will confer with Church leaders from Syria, meet with refugees from the fighting, and chair a meeting of relief agencies involved in humanitarian missions to Syria.

At his weekly public audience November 7 the Pope said that he continues to follow events in Syria “with great concern.” Speaking of “the untold suffering of many civilians, especially those who have been forced to abandon their homes,” the Pontiff renewed his appeal to all parties to enter into negotiations rather than continue the violence. “It is never too late to work for peace!” the Pope insisted.

Vatican officials confirmed that the original plans for a high-level papal delegation had been abandoned because of concerns that the mission could complicate the delicate political situation in Syria, and the prelates themselves could be at risk during the trip.

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