Vatican Laments Start of War in Iraq. (at War)

National Catholic Reporter, March 28, 2003 | Go to article overview

Vatican Laments Start of War in Iraq. (at War)

Expressing "deep pain" at the start of U.S. military strikes on Iraq, the Vatican said both sides were to blame for failing to achieve Iraq's peaceful disarmament under international law.

In a statement March 20, just hours after U.S. missiles began striking the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls said the Vatican lamented Iraq's failure to comply with U.N. disarmament resolutions and other countries' abandonment of international diplomacy to peacefully resolve the crisis.

"The Holy See noted with deep pain the evolution of the latest events in Iraq," Navarro-Valls said.

"On one hand, it laments that the Iraqi government did not accept the resolutions of the United Nations--and an appeal from the pope himself--that asked for a disarmament of the country," he said.

"On the other hand, it deplores that the path of negotiations under international law for a peaceful solution to the Iraqi drama was interrupted," he said.

Navarro-Valls' antiwar sentiments echoed the pope's, who in the last months has worked vigorously toward a peaceful solution to conflict between the United States and Iraq.

In a Jan. 13 address to diplomats, the pope said, "No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, the noble exercise of diplomacy: These are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences."

In one of his most impassioned public pleas, the pope said March 16 that war would have "tremendous consequences" for Iraqi civilians and for the equilibrium of the entire Middle East and could foment new forms of extremism.

"I say to all: There is still time to negotiate. There is still room for peace. It is never too late to understand each other and to continue to work things out," he said.

On March 18, a day after President Bush gave Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons a 48-hour ultimatum to leave Iraq to avoid military conflict, the Vatican issued a one-sentence statement. It said: "Whoever decides that all the peaceful means made available under international law are exhausted assumes a grave responsibility before God, his conscience and history."

Following are excerpted statements from major religious bodies on war with Iraq:

United States Conference of Catholic Bishops

In a March 19 statement, the U.S. bishops' president, Wilton Gregory, said "Our nation's leaders have made the momentous decision to go to war to address the failure of the Iraqi government to comply completely with its obligations. We deeply regret that war was not averted."

World Council of Churches

The council's executive committee, in a Feb. 21 statement, said: "War against Iraq would be immoral, unwise and in breach of the principles of the United Nations Charter." The committee also lambasted "the fact that the most powerful nations of this world again regard war as an acceptable instrument of foreign policy."

National Council of Churches

The council has sponsored antiwar delegations to Iraq, England, Germany, Italy, France and Russia, and is a sponsor of the "Win Without War" coalition. After the Feb. 5 meeting with German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a council statement called a U.S.-led war "an inappropriate means to achieve disarmament of any Iraqi weapons of mass destruction."

African Methodist Episcopal church

Bishop Adam Richardson, president of the Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal church, said in a March 12 interview that he was troubled by the support of possible war by some in Christianity's conservative wing. "I think that, from my perspective, the right-wing faction of Christianity is doing Christ a disservice by attempting to back their jaundiced views with scripture, trivializing the Bible in public view and making a mockery of the best traditions of biblical scholarship. …

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