Pope Puts Pressure on US
Monday 21 April 2003
The Pope sent a coded rebuke to Washington yesterday when he urged Iraqis to take charge of rebuilding their country while working closely with the international community.
In the Vatican's diplomatic lexicon, the phrase "international community" normally refers to the UN. Before the conflict started, Pope John Paul II vigorously opposed the US-led assault and advocated resolution of the crisis in the UN general assembly.
"With the support of the international community," the 82-year-old pontiff declared in his 25th Easter message, "may the Iraqi people become the protagonists of their collective rebuilding of their country." The speech appeared aimed at putting pressure on Washington and London to involve the UN more closely in political reconstruction in Iraq and to speed up the handover to civilian rule.
In the months before the fighting, the Pope conducted a series of high-profile diplomatic initiatives, sending envoys to George Bush and Saddam Hussein and holding talks with Iraq's deputy prime minister, Tariq Aziz, and with Tony Blair.
More recently, the Vatican has offered to help coordinate humanitarian aid through its embassy and dioceses.
Easter Sunday sermons from other Christian leaders also examined the war in Iraq, with the Archbishop of York, Dr David Hope, calling on the international community to join forces to build the country's civil and democratic society.
He said: "Quite frankly, despite all the promises ... how things currently are in Kabul and Afghanistan post-war does not bode well as to how things might be in Baghdad and Iraq."
The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, said in his homily that the desire to cling on to comfortable ways of thinking had characterised the moral debate over the conflict in Iraq.
The Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, leader of Roman Catholics in England and Wales, urged the faithful to pray for all victims of the conflict.
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