By Courtney Grogan
Pope Francis marked the 70th anniversary of the Geneva Conventions Sunday with a message urging the protection of life and human dignity in armed conflicts.
“Let us not forget that war and terrorism are always a serious loss for all humanity,” Pope Francis said Aug. 11 after his Angelus prayer.
The Geneva Conventions are “important international legal instruments that impose limits on the use of force and are aimed at the protection of civilians and prisoners in times of war,” Francis said.
Signed amid the aftermath of World War II on August 12, 1949, the four Geneva Conventions expanded international humanitarian law for the protection of civilian populations during war and further defined protocols for the humane treatment of prisoners of war, as well as for the wounded and the sick.
Pope Francis urged the particular importance of protecting unarmed populations and civil structures today, especially hospitals, schools, places of worship, and refugee camps.
Last month the pope spoke out after an airstrike hit a migrant detention center amid the armed conflict in Libya, killing more than 50 people. “The international community cannot tolerate such serious facts,” Francis said July 7.
Hospitals and schools also became targets during the Syrian civil war. More than 300 healthcare facilities in Syria were attacked in the conflict by 2018, according to Physicians for Human Rights.
Pope Francis said that he hopes that the anniversary of the Geneva Conventions will help countries today to be more “aware of the indispensable need to protect the life and dignity of victims of armed conflicts.”
“We are invited, that is, to live an authentic and mature faith, capable of illuminating the many ‘nights of life,’” Pope Francis said in his Angelus address.
The pope explained that “the lamp of faith needs to be constantly nourished with meeting Jesus heart to heart in prayer and listening to His Word.”
“True faith opens our hearts to others and spurs us towards concrete communion with our brothers, especially those in need,” Pope Francis said.
“The thought of our final encounter with the Father, rich in mercy, fills us with hope, and spurs us to a constant commitment to our sanctification and to build a more just and fraternal world,”