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Volume 2, Number 47              January 5 - 11, 2003            Quezon City, Philippines

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Applause for Pope's anti-war sermon

By Richard Owen in Rome 
Time Online

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THE Pope made clear his opposition yesterday to war against Iraq and called for an end to violence in the Middle East.

In his homily for New Year's Day during Mass at St Peter's Basilica, the Pope said that peace was both possible and right despite repeated attacks on the concept of peaceful cohabitation between peoples.

His remarks were greeted with applause - unusual during Mass - as he emphasised that peace was a "precious gift from God" that had to be built with effort.

The Pope did not refer specifically to Iraq, but in a clear allusion to preparations for war against President Saddam Hussein he called for peaceful means of settlement "in the face of today's conflicts and the menacing tensions of the moment".  

The Pope, 82, spoke in a clear voice, with only an occasional slurring of words owing to Parkinson's disease. But he used a mobile platform to move around and left the conduct of the Mass to Cardinal

Angelo Sodano, the Vatican Secretary of State and a potential successor.

Making an impassioned appeal for a resumption of dialogue in the Middle East, the Pope said: "The dramatic and persistent tensions in the region make it all the more urgent to find a positive solution to the fratricidal and senseless conflict which has bloodied it for too long."

The pontiff said that Pope John XXIII had issued the encyclical Pacem in Terris, shortly before his death 40 years ago, in which he called for peace and world order in the face of "the nightmare of nuclear war".

That threat had now been contained, the Pope said, and the Cold War had come to an end, but there were still "wars and rumours of wars".

New threats had arisen, with terrorists feeding on the gap between the West and the Third World to create a new "world disorder". This made Pope John XXIII's vision of a world order based on "human rights and human dignity" more relevant than ever, the Pope said.

January 2, 2003


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