Vatican City, Oct 1, 2014 / 10:52 am .- Pope Francis and Vatican officials are due to meet this week with the nuncios to seven Middle Eastern nations to discuss responses to the Islamic State, and in particular how to provide humanitarian aid to displaced persons.
The summit will be held at the Vatican Oct. 2-4. On Tuesday, Holy See press officer Fr. Federico Lombardi indicated the summit will include the State Secretariat, the Holy See’s representatives to the UN in New York and in Geneva, as well as the heads of several dicasteries.
Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Vatican Secretary of State, will chair the meeting, and Pope Francis will greet the participants in an audience on Thursday.
Pope Francis will meet the participants to the summit in audience Oct. 2. On the Vatican side, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State, will chair the meeting.
Other officials of the state secretariat participating are: Archbishop Angelo Becciu, deputy; Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, secretary for relations with states; and his deputy, Antoine Camilleri.
Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and a former ambassador to Iraq, will also be present. He was sent to Iraq this summer by Pope Francis, where he met with religious and civil authorities and delivered a $1 million gift from the Pope for displaced persons.
Other Vatican officials participating are: Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches; Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, president of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue; Cardinal Peter Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; Cardinal Kurt Koch, president of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity; Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, president of the Pontifical Council for Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant Peoples; and Cardinal Robert Sarah, president of the Pontifical Council Cor Unum.
The nuncios who will take part to the summit are: Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, nuncio to Iraq and Jordan; Archbishop Nicola Caccia, nuncio to Lebanon; Archbishop Jean-Paul Gobel, nuncio to Egypt; Archbishop Mario Zenari, nuncio to Syria; and Archbishop Leo Boccardi, nuncio to Iran.
Archbishops Bernardito Auza and Silvano Maria Tomasi, the Holy See’s permanent observers to the United Nations in New York and in Geneva, will be present as well.
The summit’s schedule has not been disclosed, aside from the audience with Pope Francis.
According to sources, all the participants are called to voice their concerns and their proposals to improve the Vatican’s diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in the Middle East.
The summit has been prompted by the rise of the Islamic State, a caliphate established in portions of Syria and Iraq earlier this year. The caliphate has persecuted all non-Sunni persons in its territory: there are now more than 1.2 million internally displaced persons in Iraq, and tens of thousands have become refugees.
The meeting will zero-in on the general situation in Middle East and possible diplomatic responses; on the plight of Christians and the way to address it; and how to better deliver the help and supplies that have been delivered.
Already, some $126 million has been sent to Christians in Iraq, and some 2.2 million persons could benefit from the financial aid delivered by Catholic institutions.
Participants may also discuss ways to improve coordination among apostolic nuncios and local bishops in the region.
For refugees and the internally displaced, funds are needed to winterize camps, and it must be decided whether to encourage the displaced to remain in the region, or to help them leave their home countries.
The Christian population in Iraq has plummeted to 400,000, down from about 1.5 million before the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
One year ago, on Sept. 7, 2013, Pope Francis led a day prayer and fasting for peace in Syria, which has been embroiled in civil war which began early in 2011 and which has killed more than 191,000.
The day of prayer and fasting followed a Sept. 5 meeting between Archbishop Mamberti and 71 ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. At that time the archbishop explained that the Holy See’s plan for peace was based on the restoration of dialogue among the parties; and maintaining the integrity of the country.
This plan could be applied to Iraq as well, and is likely to be discussed at the summit.
It will also discuss the need for international intervention against the Islamic State, which Cardinal Parolin described as “a terrorist organization which threatens all states, vowing to dissolve them and to replace them with a pseudo-religious world government.”
Cardinal Parolin addressed the United Nations Sept. 30, stating that it “is both licit and urgent to stop aggression through multilateral action and a proportionate use of force.”
“As a representative body of a worldwide religious community embracing different nations, cultures and ethnicities, the Holy See earnestly hopes that the international community will assume responsibility in considering the best means to stop all aggression and avoid the perpetration of new and even graver injustices,” he added.