Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of March 24, 2003
Bush must answer to God
Vatican issues brief statement, while pope pleads for peace
By JOHN NORTON
"Democratization through war is a utopia."
- Cardinal Pio Laghi
Then, in a rare departure from his prepared text, the 82-year-old pope said that as a survivor of the Second World War in Poland he felt "a duty to remind the younger generations of this experience, and to tell them: 'War, never again!'"
That does not mean the Church is asking for "peace at any price," he said, but it wants to highlight the "great, very great responsibility" that world leaders face when it comes to decisions on war.
And in the final hours of a U.S. countdown to military strikes against Iraq, the pope offered an impassioned prayer for the populations who are "threatened by war."
The pope made his remarks during the weekly general audience March 19, the deadline of a U.S. ultimatum to Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and his sons to leave Iraq or face war. The day also marked the feast of St. Joseph, patron of the universal Church.
His voice shaking with emotion, the 82-year-old pontiff prayed that St. Joseph, "man of peace that he was, obtain for all humanity, especially for the peoples threatened in these hours by war, the precious gift of harmony and peace."
Bush, issuing his ultimatum during a television address from the White House, said war would be an act of self-defence against a country that had ties to terrorists and was still trying to amass, hide and develop biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
"The United Nations Security Council has not lived up to its responsibilities," Bush said. "So we will rise to ours."
The pope had sent a personal envoy to Bush earlier in March to urge that the Iraqi crisis be solved peacefully through the United Nations.
After returning to Rome and briefing the pope March 15, the envoy, retired Italian Cardinal Pio Laghi, criticized what he called a rush to war in Iraq and said it was an illusion to think democracy can be imposed through military force.
"Democratization through war is a utopia. It is well-known that growth in democracy takes a long time," he said in an interview published by the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera.
Laghi, a former ambassador to the United States, said there was a serious risk that a U.S.-led war with a few Western allies would be seen by many Muslims as a "Christian" war against Islam. Hatred and terrorism can be expected to increase as a result, he said.
He said a key part of the Vatican's concern was maintaining the authority of the United Nations. This authority has been endangered by "those who demanded too much too soon" on a complicated question like disarmament in Iraq.
At the same time, the cardinal said, other members of the UN Security Council may have involuntarily weakened the pressure on Iraq to disarm by publicly opposing the United States.
Laghi said he told Bush the pope would no doubt keep up his strong anti-war statements if the United States attacks Iraq.
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