VATICAN CITY (CNS): Intensifying a peace offensive built on prayers and diplomacy, Pope John Paul II sent a personal envoy to US President George W. Bush last week to underscore the Vatican’s opposition to a new war in Iraq.
“We need to explore every possible path to avoid war, which always brings with it grief and grave consequences for all,” the Pope said at a noon blessing on March 2.
The Pope sent Cardinal Pio Laghi, a former nuncio to the United States and a longtime friend of the Bush family, to confer with the President.
On February 27, the Pope met with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Iranian Parliament leader Seyyed Mohammad Reza Khatami. He expressed his hope that “all the involved parties – without exception – would make just decisions” that are in line with international law and ethical principles.
Mr Khatami, who is vice-speaker of the Iranian Parliament, came with a personal message to the Pope from his brother, Iranian President Mohammad Khatami. He told Vatican Radio that his country feared a war in Iraq would unleash violence throughout the region and “all over the world”.
Later that day, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, the Vatican’s foreign affairs specialist, briefed more than 60 ambassadors on the Holy See’s position against preventive war in Iraq and emphasised that peace still had a chance.
In an interview on February 26 with Catholic News Service, US Ambassador to the Vatican, Jim Nicholson, rejected criticism of US “unilateralism” on Iraq, saying the United Nations already has provided for the possibility of armed intervention if Iraq refuses to disarm.
Mr Nicholson pointed to UN resolution 1441 passed in November, which called on Iraq to declare all weapons of mass destruction or face “serious consequences”.
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