Dear Pax Christi USA Members and Friends,
Pope Takes Issue with America's 'Just War'
From Richard Owen in Rome
THE POPE launched an eleventh-hour crusade yesterday to avert a war
against Iraq, for which he believes there is no justification.
The ageing pontiff rebuffed attempts by the Bush Administration to
persuade him that impending military action against Baghdad amounted to
a Christian "just war".
Today he will dispatch a personal peace envoy to Baghdad to urge
President Saddam Hussein to co-operate fully with United Nations
At the end of the week he will meet Tariq Aziz, Iraq's Deputy Prime
Minister and an Arab Christian, in Rome, and will also meet Kofi Annan,
the UN Secretary-General. Diplomats said that Mr Aziz might remain in
Rome to meet Mr Annan under the auspices of the Vatican.
Looking and sounding like a man rejuvenated by the urgent need to avert
the imminent conflict, the Pope, 82, also gave his backing to the new
Franco-German plan to resolve the Iraq crisis through beefed-up weapons
inspections and the deployment of UN troops. The plan was disclosed to
the Pope on Friday by Joschka Fischer, the German Foreign Minister.
Diplomats said that the Pope had been "the first world figure to be
told of the plan".
Yesterday the Pope made a dramatic and impassioned appeal for world
prayers, declaring that only God could stop the conflict now. "At this
hour of international worry we all feel the need to look to God and beg
him to grant us the great gift of peace," he told pilgrims and visitors
in St Peter's Square. Only "an act from on high" could offer hope of
altering what appeared to be a bleak future.
The Pope is sending Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, his diplomatic
troubleshooter, to Baghdad. Cardinal Etchegaray, a French Basque, has
undertaken sensitive diplomatic missions for the Pope in the past. Last
year he helped to negotiate an end to the siege of the Church of the
Nativity in Bethlehem, where Palestinian gunmen had taken refuge.
At the weekend the Pope said that efforts to stave off war must be
multiplied. "One cannot do nothing in the face of terrorist attacks,
but equally one cannot be idle in the face of the threats now on the
horizon," he said. "War is not inevitable."
The case for a "just war" was made at the weekend by Michael Novak,
conservative Roman Catholic theologian and a close ally of President
Bush, in talks with senior Vatican officials, including Archbishop
Jean-Louis Tauran, the Pope's Foreign Secretary.
Under the principles of "just war", as formulated by St Augustine of
Hippo and later by St Thomas Aquinas, war can be waged only as a last
resort and by a "legitimate authority". It must be fought with "right
intentions", for example in self-defense or to redress a wrong, and
with a reasonable chance of success to avoid excessive death and
injury. The theory of just war also holds that civilian casualties must
be avoided, that the means used must be proportionate and that the
ultimate goal should be to establish a peace "preferable to what would
have prevailed if the war had not been fought".
Mr Novak, who today will address a conference in Rome on just war
organized by James Nicholson, the US Ambassador to the Holy See,
insisted that war against Iraq amounted to self-defense He told
Archbishop Tauran that Saddam was using Iraqi scientists "to breed huge
destruction in the US and Europe". He said that those who opposed war
would have a lot on their consciences if the United States failed to
act and Americans were later killed by Saddam's weapons. The Catholic
catechism also justified the use of force provided that it was
sanctioned by those responsible for the common good, Mr Novak said.
But the Archbishop, speaking for the Pope, said that US arguments were
insufficient and that there was no imminent threat from Baghdad that
could justify a war.
Civiltà Cattolica (Catholic Civilisation), a Jesuit journal that
reflects Vatican views, said that "the Islamic masses, which already
harbor a deep hatred of the West, will see it as an act of war against
Islam". The journal said that the real US motive was economic and that
the concept of "preventive war" was highly dangerous. "If every country
which feels threatened attacks first, there will be war without end on
the entire planet," it said.
Copyright 2003 Times Newspapers Ltd