BAGHDAD, Aug. 18 (UPI) -- Pope Francis has repeatedly expressed concern about the humanitarian crisis in Iraq as a result of the deteriorating security situation and on Monday was asked whether he approved of American airstrikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq.
U.S. President Barack Obama authorized targeted air strikes against IS militants on August 7, two days before the Holy Father appealed for the international community "to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence..."
In a letter addressed to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Holy Father wrote on August 9:
"In renewing my urgent appeal to the international community to take action to end the humanitarian tragedy now underway, I encourage all the competent organs of the United Nations, in particular those responsible for security, peace, humanitarian law and assistance to refugees, to continue their efforts in accordance with the Preamble and relevant Articles of the United Nations Charter.
"The violent attacks that are sweeping across Northern Iraq cannot but awaken the consciences of all men and women of goodwill to concrete acts of solidarity by protecting those affected or threatened by violence and assuring the necessary and urgent assistance for the many displaced people as well as their safe return to their cities and their homes. The tragic experiences of the Twentieth Century, and the most basic understanding of human dignity, compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities."
When asked Monday whether he approves of U.S. military action to stop the violence, Pope Francis replied "I can only say this: It is licit to stop the unjust aggressor... I underline the verb: stop. I do not say bomb, make war, I say stop by some means."
"Is there an unjust aggressor? It would seem there is. How do we stop him?"
Pope Francis fell short of endorsing the U.S. airstrikes, and instead suggested the U.N. should explore by what "means" the militants are stopped. "It is there that this should be discussed."