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

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Pope: War in Iraq Should Be Last Resort

Associated Press Writer 

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VATICAN CITY - Pope John Paul II issued his strongest criticism yet of  a possible war with Iraq, saying Monday that military force can only be  used as "the very last option" - and then only under certain conditions.

Amid a buildup of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf, John Paul urged  political leaders to step up their diplomatic efforts to avoid war, which  he said would only harm ordinary Iraqis "already sorely tried" by 12 years of U.N. sanctions.

"War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity," the  pope told Vatican-based diplomats in his annual speech on issues of  concern to the Roman Catholic Church.

"As the charter of the United Nations organization and international  law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a  matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in

accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences  for the civilian population both during and after the military  operations."

It was the pope's strongest message yet in opposition to war, and it  was the first time since the crisis erupted that he has publicly  mentioned Iraq by name.

Previously, John Paul has only referred in general to the threats of  war and, in his Christmas message, called on the world to "extinguish the  ominous smoldering of a conflict."

Other Vatican officials have been more explicit, saying in recent  newspaper interviews that a "preventive war" against Baghdad would have no  moral or legal justification, and would only create antagonisms between  Christians and Muslims.

The U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, James Nicholson, said the United States agreed with the pope's comment that war isn't always inevitable.  

"President Bush has said war is a last resort," Nicholson said after  the speech. "War won't be necessary" if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein  abides by U.N. resolutions and gets rid of his weapons of mass destruction, he said.

John Paul was a strong opponent of the 1991 Gulf War and has frequently  spoken out about the plight of Iraqis suffering under sanctions imposed  after Baghdad invaded Kuwait in 1990.

In his speech, the pope also touched on other issues of concern to the  church, including the "crisis" in Vatican-Russian relations and what he  called the risks to the dignity of human life: abortion, euthanasia and  human cloning.

The three, he said, "risk reducing the human person to a mere object:  life and death to order, as it were!"

"When all moral criteria are removed, scientific research involving the  sources of life becomes a denial of the being and the dignity of the  person," he told the diplomats gathered in the frescoed Sala Regia of the Vatican's Apostolic Palace.

The pope has long voiced opposition to abortion and euthanasia, and the  Vatican has recently entered the debate of cloning and research using  stem cells from human embryos.

Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, for example, called the recent  claims that a cloned baby had been born "an expression of a brutal mentality, devoid of any ethical and human consideration."

On Russia, the pope denounced the expulsion of five foreign-born Roman  Catholic priests and said he expected Russia to "end to the crisis."

"Russian Catholics wish to live as their brethren do in the rest of the  world, enjoying the same freedom and the same dignity," he told the diplomats.

He stressed that dialogue between Christians and with other religious "in particular with Islam, are the best remedy for sectarian rifts,  fanaticism or religious terrorism."

Jan 13, 2003


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