The Vatican on Monday asked the U.S. to find an "adequate humanitarian solution" for prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay detention centre, a reflection of Pope Francis' vocal concern that prisoners be treated with dignity and not be subject to inhumane treatment.
The Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, made the request during a Vatican meeting with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.
Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi said the two sides discussed the U.S. commitment to closing the facility. He said Parolin expressed the Holy See's desire that "favourable attention be paid to finding adequate humanitarian solutions for current inmates."
Pope Francis has spoken out forcefully about the need to protect prisoners' rights and dignity, and has dedicated much of his pastoral care both as archbishop of Buenos Aires and as pope to ministering to inmates. Just this past weekend, he sent a letter of Christmas greetings to inmates at a prison in Latina urging them to use their time in detention as an opportunity for personal and spiritual growth.
Without citing the U.S. by name, Francis has harshly criticized extraordinary renditions, which the CIA used after the Sept. 11 attacks to take terror suspects to third countries for interrogation, and often torture. In an October speech, he denounced life prison terms as a "hidden death penalty," and said putting inmates in isolation was a form of "physical and psychological torture."
President Barack Obama has launched a new push to close Guantanamo, and recently a dozen prisoners were transferred out, leaving about 130 from a high of 700 on the U.S. base in Cuba.
Lombardi said Kerry and Parolin also discussed Mideast peace efforts. He said the hour-long meeting only allowed for a brief discussion of Ukraine and the Ebola crisis.