WASHINGTON – The Administrative Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued an urgent call for a political solution to the crisis in Syria. The bishops issued the statement on the first day of their Sept. 10-11 Administrative Committee meeting at the USCCB headquarters in Washington.
"We ask the United States to work with other governments to obtain a ceasefire, initiate serious negotiations, provide impartial humanitarian assistance, and encourage efforts to build an inclusive society in Syria that protects the rights of all its citizens, including Christians and other minorities," the bishops wrote.
The appeal followed a day of prayer and fasting for peace in Syria on Sept. 7, which had been called for by Pope Francis. Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, USCCB president, and Bishop Richard E. Pates of Des Moines, Iowa, USCCB International Justice and Peace chairman, wrote letters September 4 and 5 to President Obama and Congress, respectively, also urging that the United States not resort to military action.
The bishops condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria, calling it a "heinous crime against humanity." They also noted that more than 100,000 Syrians have lost their lives, more than 2 million have fled the country as refugees and more than 4 million within Syria have been driven from their homes by violence.
"As Congress struggles with the complex challenges and humanitarian catastrophe that have engulfed Syria, we offer the voice of the Universal Church and our prayers for peace," the bishops wrote.
The bishops also echoed the call of Pope Francis and bishops in the Middle East against military intervention in Syria. "They have made it clear that a military attack will be counterproductive, will exacerbate an already deadly situation, and will have unintended negative consequences," the bishops wrote. "Their concerns strongly resonate in American public opinion that questions the wisdom of intervention and in the lack of international support."
The bishops said recent international proposals to secure and destroy Syria's chemical weapons "deserve serious consideration, evaluation and encouragement."
The Administrative Committee consists of the officers, chairmen and regional representatives of the USCCB, totaling 36 bishops. The committee, which meets in March and September, is the highest authority within the USCCB outside of the full body of bishops during their fall or spring general assemblies.
The full text of the Administrative Committee's statement is available online: www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/syria/statement-on-syia-by-usccb-administrative-committee-2013-09-10.cfm