The Holy See has called for the opening of humanitarian corridors in the face of the increasing and concerning number of civilian casualties. Speaking at the “Joint Launch of the Humanitarian Flash Appeal and the Regional Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine” on Tuesday, 1 March, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, noted that the number of people fleeing ongoing hostilities and crossing into neighbouring countries is fast approaching 700,000, and is likely to increase.
Reiterating Pope Francis’ appeal at the Sunday Angelus, he stressed the urgency of opening humanitarian corridors, as well as ensuring full, safe, and unhindered access to humanitarian workers so they can deliver assistance to civilian populations in need. “Protecting civilian populations, as well as humanitarian personnel, in accordance with international humanitarian law, must be the priority,” he said.
Archbishop Caccia thanked the States that are accepting refugees in a “spirit of solidarity” as well as those offering the much-needed humanitarian assistance. “Welcoming, protecting and assisting the hundreds of thousands of refugees is a common responsibility”, he said. At the same time, he emphasized that efforts to respond to the needs of those fleeing for safety must respect the principle of non-refoulement (which prohibits States from transferring or removing individuals from their jurisdiction or effective control when there are substantial grounds for believing that the person would be at risk of irreparable harm upon return), as well as shared obligations under international law.
The Archbishop then joined other Member States in calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and a “return to diplomacy and dialogue”. He also noted the efforts of the Catholic Church and its institutions, and the help they are providing to thousands in need.
Taking up the same appeal at the 11th Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York on Wednesday, 2 March, Archbishop Caccia recalled that the United Nations was founded “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war” and “live together in peace with one another as good neighbors”.
He expressed the Holy See’s conviction that there is always time for goodwill, as well as room for negotiation and wisdom that can “prevent the predominance of partisan interest, safeguard the legitimate aspirations of everyone, and spare the world from the folly and horrors of war”.