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Pope, others portray possible strike on Iraq as criminal, immoral (english)
13 Mar 2003
"unilateral military strike would be a 'crime against peace' with no justification on grounds of self-defense."
Vatican antiwar appeals intensify
Posted on Thu, Mar. 13, 2003
Pope, others portray possible strike on Iraq as criminal, immoral
VICTOR L. SIMPSON
VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II and top Vatican officials are unleashing a barrage
of condemnations of a possible U.S. military strike on Iraq, calling it immoral, risky and a
"crime against peace."
The unwavering stance has made the pope one of the most visible opponents of war in
current circumstances, and a rallying point for peace groups and politicians who seize on
his words counseling against war.
Even those supportive of a U.S.-led strike, including the prime ministers of Britain, Spain
and Italy, have recently lined up to see him, aware of his leadership role.
President Bush, who has rarely met with opponents of his Iraqi stand in recent months,
did receive an emissary from John Paul last week. Upon returning to Rome, the emissary,
Cardinal Pio Laghi, said American officials had been friendly but that "friendship is not
The next day, as he began a week of Lenten prayers, the pope said he will "bear in mind
the needs of the church and the concerns of all mankind, above all for peace in Iraq and
the Holy Land."
The stance reflects what experts say is the Vatican's evolving position on just war, already
seen by its opposition to the Gulf War, as well as concern about the impact of war on
relations between Christians and Muslims.
"He is looking ahead for the rest of this century where Christian-Muslim relations are key
to peace and religious freedom in Africa and many parts of Asia," said the Rev. Thomas
Reese, editor of the Jesuit magazine America.
John Paul has insisted that war is a "defeat for humanity" and that a preventive strike
against Iraq is neither legally nor morally justified.
Aides have repeatedly said the pope is not a pacifist, pointing to his support of
humanitarian intervention to "disarm the aggressor" in Bosnia and East Timor.
But in some of the Vatican's strongest language against a possible war, its foreign
minister, Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, said a unilateral military strike would be a
"crime against peace" with no justification on grounds of self-defense.