Slammed Over Iraq War By His Own Priest
By Tom Newton Dunn
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BLAIR was yesterday accused of "moral surrender" over war in Iraq - by
his own priest.
Father Timothy Russ hit out after the Blair family attended his Catholic church
After the service Fr Russ, a family friend, told the Daily Mirror violence and
loss of life are not God's way to solve the world's problems.
Father Russ, priest at St Anne's Roman Catholic Church near the PM's Chequers
home said: "Man must live by the will to integrity rather than the will to
power. The PM is caught up in the will to power game. That is his problem.
"He has had a moral surrender from his past. His positions have changed
over the years... He may not like me very much for telling you but it is my job
to try to speak the truth from God."
Father Russ spoke as religious leaders around the world branded military strikes
on Baghdad unjustified and said they would unleash untold suffering in the
After giving the Blairs and other worshippers a sermon on peace in their
Christmas Day trip to church, Father Russ said the PM had "morally
surrendered" over plans to attack Iraq.
The Roman Catholic priest added: "My sermon was all about the need to keep
the light shining bright and not let the darkness overcome it. It was a message
about the need to replace our whole conduct on the wisdom of Christ and God.
"He may not like me very much for telling you but it is my job to try to
speak the truth from God and apply it to a very fallen world."
Father Russ, a Cambridge graduate with a first in economics and member of MENSA,
writes to Downing Street regularly to make his forthright feelings known to the
He added: "I make my feelings known to him in letters, to which he responds
The Blairs have been regulars at St Anne's for the last five years since the
Labour government came to power. And they have got to know Father Russ well as a
good family friend and priest.
Yesterday Mr Blair arrived at church first, wearing a casual blue pullover and
carrying youngest child Leo, two, followed by Cherie and the couple's other
three teenage children.
Almost a hundred other locals made up the congregation at the church near
Security was unobtrusive as the Blairs chatted to fellow worshippers after the
As the family left, Cherie and eldest son Euan stopped to chat to Father Russ
for a few minutes.
Previous Prime Ministers used to worship in another nearby Anglican church. But
Catholic Cherie decided on St Anne's instead to match her faith.
Father Russ's comments came as Catholic, protestant and Muslim heads urged Mr
Blair and George Bush not to go to war but to strive for peace in an
"already troubled and dangerous world".
More than 20 bishops in Britain signed a strongly-worded statement to the two
leaders insisting a pre-emptive strike on Iraq would be "illegal, unwise
In his Christmas message from the Vatican, Pope John Paul II said war must be
avoided even though terrorism leaves the world in fear.
The 82-year-old added: "May humanity accept the Christmas message of peace.
"From the cave of Bethlehem there rises today an urgent appeal to the world
not to yield to mistrust, suspicion and discouragement."
The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams launched a thinly-veiled attack
on Blair and Bush.
He said: "It is as if the wise, the devious and the resourced can't help
but make the most immense mistakes of all.
"The strategists who know the possible ramifications of politics miss the
huge and obvious things and wreak havoc and suffering.
"Despite better communications, intelligence and surveillance, the innocent
continue to be killed.
"Here we all are, tangled in the same net...stepping deeper and deeper into
Cardinal Cormac Murphy- O'Connor, leader of the Catholic church in England and
Wales, added: "We must never give up and assume that war is inevitable.
"Let us pray that each one of us, particularly those involved in
international diplomacy and politics, will maintain our permanent commitment to
building and maintaining peace in our world."
The Archbishop of York David Hope admitted war may be inevitable, but said:
"The Christian tradition is unequivocally clear, namely that war as a
method of settling international disputes is incompatible with the teaching and
example of our Lord Jesus Christ. So the Christian instinct in every age is
always programmed against war."
The declaration written by the 20 bishops, endorsed by dozens of American
religious leaders, said: "As the calls for action against Iraq continue
from our governments, despite the opening for UN weapons inspections, we are
compelled by the prophetic vision of peace to speak a word of caution. Mistakes
are an inevitable consequence of any war, no matter how sophisticated the
"If the military strategy includes massive air attacks and urban warfare in
the streets of Baghdad, tens of thousands of innocent civilians could lose their
Muslim leaders warned an attack on Iraq would be widely interpreted as an
assault on Islam. And speaking in Baghdad's Anglican Church, Iraqi Christian
priest Ikram Mahni said: "We pray to halt this war and let us live in peace
together, Christians and Muslims, in Iraq."
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