John Paul II Says There Is Still Room for Peace in Iraq

Reminds Saddam and U.N. Members of Their Responsibilities

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 16, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II called Saddam Hussein's attention to the grave duties of his regime and reminded the U.N. Security Council members that "there is still room for peace."



Before praying the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square today, the Pope appealed to all sides involved in the Iraqi crisis.

"There is still time to negotiate," he said. "There is still room for peace; it is never too late to come to an understanding and to continue discussions."

While a key meeting was taking place in the Azores Islands between the United States, Britain and Spain, the Holy Father told the faithful that the "next few days will be decisive for the outcome of the Iraqi crisis."

"Let us pray, therefore, to the Lord to inspire in all sides of the dispute courage and farsightedness," he said.

"The political leaders of Iraq certainly have the urgent duty to collaborate fully with the international community, to eliminate every motive for armed intervention," the Holy Father said. "To them I address my urgent appeal: The fate of fellow citizens is always the priority."

The Pope went on to remind the "member countries of the United Nations, and in particular those that make up the Security Council, that the use of force represents the last recourse, after having exhausted every other peaceful solution, in keeping with the well-known principles of the U.N. Charter itself."

An "international military operation," John Paul II stressed, would have "tremendous consequences" for "the population of Iraq and the balance of the entire Middle East region, already sorely tried, as well as for the extremisms that could ensue."

Given the reality, the Pontiff stressed that the need "to reflect on one's duties, to engage in energetic negotiations does not mean to be humiliated, but to work with responsibility for peace."

Before bidding the crowds farewell, John Paul II said the following spontaneously: "I belong to that generation that lived through World War II and, thanks be to God, survived it.

"I have the duty to say to all young people, to those who are younger than me, who have not had this experience: 'No more war!' as Paul VI said during his first visit to the United Nations."

"We must do everything possible!" he exhorted. "We know well that peace is not possible at any cost. But we all know how great this responsibility is -- therefore, prayer and penance!"

The Holy Father again appealed to believers to be dedicated to prayer and penance for peace, during this Lent.

"We Christians," he said, "are convinced that real and lasting peace is not only the fruit, though necessary, of political agreements and understanding between individuals and peoples, but a gift of God to all those who submit themselves to him and accept with humility and gratitude the light of his love."

Prayer, the Holy Father concluded, can make it possible for this Lent "not to be remembered as a sad time of war, but as a period of courageous effort for conversion and peace."