VATICAN CITY (CNS): The Vatican said it was ready to help mediate a solution to a stand-off between US troops and Shiite militants in the Iraqi holy city of Najaf.
“The Holy See is obviously always willing to help all sides talk and engage in dialogue,” said a Vatican spokesman, Passionist Father Ciro Benedettini.
The Holy See would offer its services “on the condition that there truly exists the will to take up peaceful ways toward a solution to the conflict”, he said in a written statement released on August 17 by the Vatican.
Since August 5, US troops backed by Iraqi government forces in Najaf have been locked in intense fighting with militants supporting Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.
Fr Benedettini said the Vatican’s secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano, is in “close contact” with Iraq’s apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, and Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad, in order to “directly follow developments of the situation” on the ground in Iraq.
The Vatican’s former foreign affairs minister, Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, told the Italian daily La Repubblica that “the request for mediation is a sign of the prestige and great moral authority” the Islamic world attributes to Pope John Paul.