VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican said the collapse of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s regime marked a ‘significant opportunity for the population’s future’ and pledged to help in rebuilding and humanitarian efforts.
In a statement on April 10, a day after the Iraqi capital fell to US troops, the Vatican said it hoped remaining coalition military operations around the country would finish rapidly to spare Iraqis further suffering.
It also called on Iraqis and the international community to embrace the post-war challenge of working to build ‘an era of peace in the Middle East’.
The statement made no mention of the Vatican’s outspoken opposition to the war prior to the US-led military campaign, but focused instead on Iraq’s immediate and future post-war needs.
A top US official who met on April 9 with Vatican officials later reported that the Church leaders had made ‘concrete proposals’ on how Catholic groups in Iraq could help distribute much needed humanitarian aid. The official, US undersecretary of state for arms control and international security, John R. Bolton, did not detail the proposals but called the meeting ‘constructive and helpful’.
The imminent end of the Iraqi conflict signalled by the fall of Baghdad was welcomed by Vatican officials.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who the Vatican’s top doctrinal official, said the ‘result is happier than could have been thought’.
Speaking on April 10 to Fides, the Vatican’s missionary news service, Archbishop Fernando Filoni said Iraq’s Christians were sharing the same hardships as the majority Muslim population.
The Vatican was one of the few states to keep open its embassy in Baghdad during the conflict.