Papal Envoy Visits Christians While Awaiting Meeting with Saddam

It's Necessary to Believe in Peace, Cardinal Says

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Pope's special envoy to Iraq traveled to northern city of Mosul to meet with the Christian community while awaiting his meeting with President Saddam Hussein.



Cardinal Roger Etchegaray celebrated Mass in that city today, located in the region of Iraq with the greatest number of Catholics, virtually all of whom are of the Chaldean rite. He plans to return to Baghdad on Friday.

Sources said the cardinal's meeting with the Iraqi president might take place on Saturday, a day after John Paul II's meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz at the Vatican, and the U.N. Security Council's session to hear the new report of the U.N. inspectors on Iraq's disarmament.

In an interview on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Etchegaray said he was deeply moved by the prayers of Iraqi Catholics at the Mass-for-peace he celebrated Wednesday in the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Baghdad.

"It was a large crowd profoundly recollected in prayer, as the Catholics, like the Iraqi population as a whole, feel the threat of the war," the cardinal said.

"However, they hope that through prayer and all that is possible through human means, peace may still be attained," he said.

"It is necessary to believe in peace until the last moment," he added, "until the last second ... until the exhaustion of the resources found in every man of good will [and ...] in the people, but above all in the leaders of society, both in Iraq as well as in the international community."