January 20, 2014

VATICAN CITY – A Vatican study group is urging world leaders to stop the flow of arms into Syria and to press for an immediate and complete ceasefire there with no political preconditions.

Once greater trust and cooperation are built, "new political forms in Syria are needed to ensure representation, participation, reform and the voice and security of all social groups," a written statement said.

The statement was based on a day-long closed-door workshop hosted Jan.13 by the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.

Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, Vatican spokesman, said the initiative was a "brainstorming" session meant to gather ideas for Pope Francis and not form an official Vatican position.

The statement was also meant to help inform leaders taking part in United Nations-backed peace talks being held in Geneva Jan. 22.

Nearly two dozen people were invited as observers.

Those peace talks, in order to be successful, the statement said, will have to make sure there is "inclusive participation of all parties to this conflict, within the region and beyond."

The recommendations begin with an immediate ceasefire and an end to the funding and supplying of weapons by foreign countries to all sides in the conflict.

The next step needs to be "the immediate start of humanitarian assistance and reconstruction," it said. Both rebuilding the nation and the ceasefire need to start "even before all the political and social questions are resolved."

In a speech to diplomats Jan. 13, Pope Francis said "a renewed political will to end the conflict" in Syria is needed.