POPE'S ENVOY STILL HOPES TO DISSUADE BUSH FROM WAR

VATICAN, Mar 5, 03 (CWNews.com) -- Cardinal Pio Laghi will meet with US President George W. Bush today, in a last-ditch effort to convince the American leader of the wisdom of the Vatican's stance against a war on Iraq.

Cardinal Laghi, who served as apostolic nuncio in the United States during the 1980s, will carry a personal letter to President Bush from Pope John Paul II. Their meeting will take place on Ash Wednesday: the first day of Lent, and the day on which the Pope asked all Christians to pray especially for peace.

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer told reporters in Washington that the President is anxious to meet with Cardinal Laghi. Most observers doubt that the cardinal will be able to dissuade Bush from his military plans. But in his own comments to reporters prior to the meeting, Cardinal Laghi said that retains some hope. "I am here on a mission of peace, and I do not think war is inevitable," he said.

The cardinal told a correspondent for the Italian newspaper La Stampa that when he met President Bush, he would advance moral arguments against military action. "From the moral perspective, the question of non-adherence to the just-war doctrine is clear," he said. He pointed out that the US Catholic bishops, like Pope John Paul II, have expressed opposition to the war plans.

On Tuesday, before Cardinal Laghi's meeting at the White House, four American cardinals met with the President's national security adviser, Condoleeza Rice, to discuss the crisis in Iraq. The prelates attending that meeting with Cardinals Theodore McCarrick of Washington, Anthony Bevilacqua of Philadelphia, William Keeler of Baltimore, and Edward Egan of New York.