Pope Francis has given his support to intervention in Iraq and has said a visit to the country is not out of the question.
However returning from South Korea, he appeared to disagree with unilateral US air strikes against Islamist militants.
Pope Francis said instead it was up to the UN to stop the violence in Iraq.
“In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb ‘to stop’. I am not saying bombing or making war, but stopping him,” he said, adding “one nation cannot decide alone.”
Francis admitted that he had considered a detour to Iraq after his Korean visit, saying, “ I am willing to go. But at this moment, it would not be the best thing to do, but I am willing to do it.”
In his place he sent a senior Cardinal to visit refugees and distribute charity funds to Iraqi Kurdistan where many Christians have fled.
Church officials in the country are warning of an impending genocide as militants from Islamic State threaten Christians and minorities.