Last Updated: Wednesday - 01/05/2011
October 15, 2001
Air strikes draw cautious reaction
U.S. cardinals supportive, pope prays for peace, justice
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
U.S. air strikes in Afghanistan prompted prayers for peace at the Vatican, with some Church leaders voicing qualified support for the retaliation and others apprehensive about civilian casualties.
Pope John Paul and nearly 250 bishops meeting in a month-long synod began their Oct. 8 session with a prayer asking for peace and justice and for wise decisions by those in positions of responsibility.
Addressing pilgrims in St. Peter's Square the same day, the pope said he wanted to "share with you and entrust to God the worry and concern we feel at this delicate moment in international life." He ended the encounter with another prayer for peace.
The pope made no specific comments on the U.S. air strikes, which included the firing of cruise missiles and bombing runs against military targets in a number of Afghan cities.
However, American cardinals, speaking separately, gave measured support for the retaliatory strikes.
An informed Vatican official who asked not to be identified said it was important that the United States had emphasized this would be an attack against terrorism, not Islam. How Muslims react now is going to vary, depending on circumstances, he said.
"It's also important to realize that to eradicate terrorism, we have to go to the causes. Many people are now recognizing that if justice is brought to the situations in Palestine and Iraq, terrorism will not have a terrain in which to grow," the official said.
But among U.S. cardinals, support was unanimous for the attacks.
"This is a just war," declared Cardinal Francis George of Chicago, "not a holy war or a war of religions."
In an Oct. 9 statement from Rome, where he was attending the Synod of Bishops, he asked God to "help us to overcome war and violence and to establish your law of love and justice."
Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington called the military campaign a "necessary response" but one he prayed would not take innocent life and would be guided by "principles of morality and human dignity."
Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston said it was "understandable, given the threat to the common good posed by terrorists and their supporters." He called it "measured and carefully targeted."
Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia said, "Our government has the right and duty to defend its people against the evil aggression of terrorists against our nation." He said he is confident the goal is justice, not vengeance.
And, according to Cardinal Adam Maida of Detroit, "a military necessity now presents itself to the people of the free world." He cited "mass terrorism" and the threat of more attacks.
Cardinal Edward Egan of New York, in an Oct. 7 statement, said that while celebrating Mass in Rome, he invited the assembly "to join me in praying for the safety of the armed forces of the United States and its allies and for a speedy and decisive victory."
Cardinal William Keeler of Baltimore, in an interview with Catholic News Service in Rome, said, "We certainly hope that civilians don't suffer and that the innocent don't suffer" in Afghanistan.
He said a number of bishops were struck by the fact that, apparently for the first time in history, humanitarian aid was being provided to the people of a country even as military targets were being hit.
In his Oct. 8 statement, Law said, "However necessary and justified military force may be, its use is always regrettable. Our goal as a nation must be for a peaceful, just and stable world."
He said the current military action must "continue to be limited."
Support for the air strikes also came from Bishop Joseph Fiorenza of Galveston-Houston, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
He told CNS Oct. 8 in Rome that the attacks seemed "appropriate and measured" and that the United States "needed to take this military action" to end the operations of Osama bin Laden, widely suspected as being behind the Sept. 11 airplane attacks in America, and to get humanitarian aid to the Afghan people.
In a statement Oct. 9, Fiorenza said, "Military action is always regrettable, but it may be necessary to protect the innocent or to defend the common good."
Expressing sorrow for the retaliation was the Dominican Leadership Conference, made up of 30 Dominican congregations and provinces of sisters and friars.
"We deeply regret that military action was considered necessary. Our Christian faith leads us to declare that violence can only breed violence," it said in an Oct. 7 letter to all Dominicans.
Two Pakistan bishops opposed the air strikes.
Auxiliary Bishop Everest Pinto of Karachi told CNS that he was against the air strikes because "violence at any time isn't justified."
Bishop Max Rodrigues of Hyderabad said he did not support military action by the United States against Afghanistan because of the potential for the loss of innocent life. He also said that a prolonged U.S.-led conflict could lead to attacks against Christians in Pakistan.
Lebanese Cardinal Nasrallah Sfeir questioned whether the air strikes would prove effective in the long run.
"There will be new terror attacks in other places," he told the Vatican news agency, Fides.
Sfeir said the key to ending terrorism was "dialogue and justice, especially the social justice that is needed all across the world. But there has been none of this."
Two officials of the Latin-rite Patriarchate of Jerusalem criticized the air strikes against Afghanistan.
"I think the attack was too quick," said Father Majdi al-Siryani, legal director of the patriarchate. "I really feel sad for the Afghan people who barely even have anything to eat. I hope this does not harm them any more than they already are hurt."
Al-Siryani said his main fear was the repercussions the attack might have and noted that already it was being described as a war of "Christianity vs. Islam."
Father Raed Abusahlia, chancellor of the patriarchate, said he would advise the American people to listen to bin Laden's videotaped message to understand why the U.S. had been targeted.
"The attack of yesterday will be useless and will only create more confusion in the world," Abusahlia said Oct. 8. "It won't resolve the issue of terrorism . . . it will only cause more hatred and will give more pretexts to Muslim extremists."
"If they want to resolve the issue of terrorism, they have to go to the deep causes of this. America needs to ask why it is hated all over the world," he said.
The "mother of all violence in the Middle East and in all the world," he said, is the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.
"Resolve this conflict and you resolve 90 per cent of the conflicts of the world.
"If they want to have peace and security in New York, Washington and Brussels, the key is in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the gate of peace, and the key of this gate is in the hands of Israel and America," Abusahlia said.
"Peace in Jerusalem means peace for the whole world. War in Jerusalem means war for the whole world," he said.
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