Pope endorses the use of force against ISIS

Pope Francis endorsed the use of force to stop Islamic militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq and said that the international community should decide how to intervene. Francis also stated that he and his advisers were considering whether he might go to northern Iraq himself to show solidarity with persecuted Christians.

Among comments to journalists returning from South Korea with him on his jet, Francis confirmed he hoped to travel to the United States in September 2015 for a possible three-city tour. He is already set to attend a family rally in Philadelphia, but he also wants to address Congress in Washington and the United Nations in New York. He also said that a Mexico stop on that trip was possible but not decided yet. He also talked about a trip to Spain.

On Iraq, Francis was asked if he approved the unilateral U.S. airstrikes on militants of the Islamic State who have captured swaths of northern and western Iraq and northeastern Syria and have forced minority religions to convert to Islam or flee their homes.

“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis stated. “I underscore the verb ‘stop.’ I’m not saying ‘bomb’ or ‘make war,’ just ‘stop.’ And the means that can be used to stop them must be evaluated.”

He also warned, in history, such “excuses” to stop an unjust aggression have been used by world powers to justify a “war of conquest” in which an entire people have been taken over.

“One nation alone cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor,” he said, apparently referring to the United States. “After World War II, the idea of the United Nations came about: It’s there that you must discuss ‘Is there an unjust aggression? It seems so. How should we stop it?’ Just this. Nothing more.”

His comments were significant because of the Vatican stance against military intervention in recent years, with St. John Paul II actively trying to stop the Iraq war and Francis staging a global prayer and fast for peace when the U.S. was threatening airstrikes on Syria last year.

However, the Vatican has been increasingly showing support for military intervention in Iraq, where Christians are being directly targeted because of their faith and Christian communities which have existed for 2,000 years have been emptied as a result of the onslaught by ISIS.

The U.S. began launching airstrikes against fighters on Aug. 8, allowing Kurdish armed forces to fend off an advance on their regional capital of Irbil and to help tens of thousands of religious minorities escape to the region.

Church teaching allows for “just wars,” which is when military force can be justified under certain circumstances. In recent days, Vatican officials have talked increasingly toward acknowledging that the Iraq situation fits the bill.