Pope issues strong appeal against war16/03/2003 - 14:14:25
Pope John Paul II, in one of his strongest appeals yet against war, today implored Saddam Hussein to avoid giving the West reason to attack and warned the United Nations Security Council that military intervention could trigger an explosion of extremism.
John Paul made his plea a few hours before a summit in the Azores bringing together the leaders of Britain, the United States and Spain.
The pontiff’s remarks, delivered from his studio window overlooking St Peter’s Square, reflected the urgency of the next few days, as the White House presses for a decision on Iraq, which is under UN orders to rid itself of weapons of mass destruction.
“The next days will be decisive for the outcome of the Iraq crisis,” said the Pope, who prayed that “leaders on all sides be inspired with courage and long-range vision”.
“Certainly, the leaders of Baghdad have the urgent duty to collaborate fully with the international community, to eliminate any reason for an armed intervention,” the pope said.
“To them I direct my pressing appeal: the fate of your fellow citizens always has priority!”
John Paul also said he wanted to remind UN member countries, and especially those which make up the Security Council, that “the use of force represents the last resort, after having exhausted every other peaceful solution, according to the well-known principles of the UN Charter”.
“That is why, in the face of the tremendous consequences that an international military operation would have for the population of Iraq and for the equilibrium of the entire Middle East reason, already so tried, as well as for the extremism which could stem from it, I say to all: There is still time to negotiate there is still room for peace.”
The pontiff continued: “It is never too late to understand one another and to continue to deal with each other.”
Abandoning his prepared remarks, the pontiff, who was in his 20s and studying clandestinely for the priesthood during the Nazi Germany occupation of his native Poland, added a personal reflection.
“I must say that I belong to the generation which remembers well, which lived through World War Two, and which, thanks to God, survived World War ,” John Paul said, jabbing his finger in the air for emphasis.
“That is why I also have the duty to remind all these young people, those younger (than me), who didn’t have that experience, to remember, and to say, ‘never again war’ as (Pope) Paul VI said in his first visit to the United Nations.”
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