Catholic relief organizations stand ready to help, but are unsure if they can.
An Italian news outlet has reported that Pope Francis opened a line of communication between the Vatican and the Taliban. While the Vatican has neither confirmed nor denied the report, its existence could help thousands of refugees safely evacuate Afghanistan.
According to Crux Now, the Italian publication Il Tempo reported:
“A reserved channel has unexpectedly been opened between the Holy See and the Taliban to create a humanitarian corridor” in a three-way negotiation between [Pope Francis], the Congregation for Eastern Churches, Erdogan and the Taliban regime.”
The report goes on to claim that the Vatican is using Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as an intermediary. The discussions would address the humanitarian crisis that has resulted from the Taliban’s new rise to power. The Vatican would urge an end to religious persecution while seeking safe passage for fleeing refugees.
The move would answer Pope Francis’ August 15 call for a dialogue to end the conflict in Afghanistan. The pope spoke on the issue as Taliban insurgents were swarming through the Afghan capital, Kabul.Reuters reports, Pope Francis told those in attendance at St. Peter’s Square:
“I join in the unanimous worry about the situation in Afghanistan. I ask you to pray along with me to the God of peace so that the din of weapons ends and that solutions can be found around a table of dialogue.” The pope added, “Only this way can the martyred population of that country – men, women, elderly and children – return to their homes and live in peace and security in full reciprocal respect,”
The situation in Afghanistan is even preventing Catholic Charities from mobilizing an aid effort. Even Caritas, one of the largest international networks of Catholic Charities, has adopted a “wait and see” approach. Crux Now spoke with Aloysius John, head of Caritas, who noted that at the moment, there is no guarantee that NGOs can help. He said:
“We’re heading to a worsening of the humanitarian crisis, where I don’t know if humanitarian workers will be allowed to work freely, particularly women,” Aloysius John told Crux. “The work of charity can always be a means for dialogue, and this is the way we have to look at it.”
John added, “We’re waiting to see what we can do, but we have some experience on this and we will continue to do our best in order to bring support to the people.”