Pope Francis on Monday endorsed military action to stop Islamist militants from attacking religious minorities in Iraq, a pronouncement that goes against a century of papal guidance against the use of force.
Francis cautioned that no country should act alone, and he called for an agreement within the international community, possibly through the United Nations, before embarking on a military campaign. He also warned against an all-out war, insisting that force could be justified only to "stop" the Islamic State, Muslim extremists who have forced Iraqi Christians and members of the Yazidi sect to convert to Islam. Those who refused have fled, and some have been executed by the militants.
James Bretzke, a priest and professor of moral theology at Boston College, said popes in recent history have all lined up against any military intervention, including World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and, most recently, the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.