VATICAN CITY (CNS): Pope John Paul II has encouraged Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi to pursue democracy and religious freedom in his country and told him he prayed for the victims of terrorism and violence there.
The Pope met with Mr Allawi, his wife Thana and members of the Iraqi interim government in a private audience at the Vatican on November 4.
It was Mr Allawi’s first visit to the Vatican since he took over from the US-led provisional government in June.
Mr Allawi and his group also met with the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, and other officials from his office.
The Pope strongly opposed the US-led war in Iraq. Vatican diplomats worked publicly and behind the scenes in efforts to head off the US-led invasion in March 2003.
The Pope repeatedly invoked the involvement of the United Nations in trying to resolve the crisis through negotiations.
Despite that position, however, the Pope has since vigorously encouraged the reconstruction of Iraq and called for an end to the violence that continues there.