The Holy See has expressed "deep pain" in response to the news that military action has begun in Iraq.
The formal statement issued by the Vatican press office found fault with both Iraqi and American leadership. The statement read, in part:
"On the one hand, it is to be regretted that the Iraqi government did not accept the resolutions of the United Nations and the appeal of the Pope himself, as both asked that the country disarm. On the other hand, it is to be deplored that the path of negotiations, according to international law, for a peaceful solution of the Iraqi drama has been interrupted."
The statement expressed pleasure that Catholic relief agencies inside Iraq were providing support for the civilian population, and reiterated that the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, would remain in Baghdad to coordinate that effort.
Pope John Paul II was being briefed on new developments in Iraq on an hourly basis, Vatican sources reported. The Holy Father celebrated a private Mass for peace on the morning of March 20, after the start of hostilities.
The Vatican newspaper issued an early March 21 edition featuring a bold front-page headline: "The Madness of War." L'Osservatore Romano-- which is published in the afternoon, with the cover date showing the following day-- lamented that "diplomacy has been abandoned, to undertake the easier route of bombardment and the death of unarmed people." The paper observed, however, that "the path of prayer remains open," and promised that Christians would construct "an uninterrupted chain of prayer for peace, notably the Rosary," on a round-the-clock basis
Cardinal Roberto Tucci, the former chief coordinator for papal travel
arrangements, told Vatican Radio that the outbreak of open warfare was
"a defeat of reason." He placed primary blame on the Iraqi government,
which he said had taken on "enormous responsibilities" by refusing to comply
with international demands. But he added that the American-led campaign
could increase the violence of anti-American sentiment around the world,
and ultimately harm "the influence of democratic countries."