This week at the Vatican, Syria was at the top of the agenda. The Pontifical Academy of Sciences convened a panel of experts, including former Egyptian Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, to search for ways to end Syria’s nearly three-year civil war. Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the crisis with Vatican Secretary of State and Cardinal-designate Pietro Parolin. And Pope Francis himself, in a speech to diplomats, renewed the call for peace in Syria that he made in September at a special prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Square.
Few actions are more characteristic of the modern papacy than appeals for peace. Think of Pope Paul VI at the United Nations in 1965 calling for “No more war, war never again”; Pope John Paul II with leaders of other religions praying for peace at Assisi ; or popes giving annual Christmas and Easter addresses that highlight the most urgent crises around the world….
The pope as peacemaker is a role no more than a century old, and is the legacy of the man who held the office during World War I.