Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources

No, the Vatican has not endorsed the US military action in Iraq

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Aug 12, 2014

Several internet sites are reporting that Pope Francis has endorsed the US bombing campaign in Iraq. Those reports are inaccurate.

Some leading Church officials—not including the Pope—have spoken in support of military action to prevent the continued slaughter of Christians. But none has endorsed the specific military plans laid out by President Obama.

Pope Francis has denounced the violence against Christians by the Islamic state, and urged international leaders to “protect all those affected or threatened by violence.” But he has not indicated what form an international intervention should take. He called for aid to the thousands of refugees driven from their homes. He has sent a personal envoy to Iraq to show solidarity with the persecuted Christians and to explore any possible route to peace. But he has said nothing about military action.

Other Vatican officials have addressed the question of military intervention. Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Vatican’s representative at UN headquarters in Geneva, said that direct military action “is probably necessary” to save the lives of thousands of refugees. Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the papal nuncio in Iraq, agreed that the air strikes were “something that had to be done.” But while those statements indicate reluctant approval of some military action, they cannot be interpreted as blanket endorsements of the US military plan.

In fact the only Catholic prelate who has addressed the specific form of American intervention is Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Sako, who has been sharply critical of the American military plan. The Iraqi prelate complains that targeted air strikes will be inadequate to save the Christian refugees, and will not halt the advance of the Islamic State.

While the Vatican has not released any policy statement in support of American military action, however, it is striking that there have been no warnings against such intervention. That silence is striking, particularly in contrast to the energetic lobbying campaigns that the Vatican mounted twice in the past, opposing US military action in Iraq. In a balanced analysis of the Vatican’s stand, John Allen of the Boston Globe explains the apparent shift in the Vatican’s stand:

One core reason the Vatican opposed the two Gulf Wars, as well as any expansion of the conflict in Syria, was fear that the fall of a police state in the Middle East would lead to the rise of a radical Islamic theocracy in which Christians and other minorities would find themselves in the firing line.
That’s no longer a theoretical anxiety. It’s the lived reality of the new caliphate proclaimed by the Islamic State, which means that the Vatican and other Christian leaders are no longer so worried about the aftermath of a conflict. They’re much more preoccupied by the here and now, and thus more inclined to back anyone who seems prepared to do something about it.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

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  • Posted by: j.fleming8019 - Aug. 13, 2014 11:20 PM ET USA

    I must say Phil that I find it difficult to believe that the two prelates you quote would have made those statements without the approval of the Holy Father. I agree that the Pope has not said the words. But Archbishop Silvano Tomas is the Vatican’s representative at UN headquarters in Geneva, and Archbishop Giorgio Lingua is the papal nuncio in Iraq. In my view this is more likely than not to have the holy Father's agreement.