Vatican City, Jan. 13 (Reuters): Putting the Vatican on a diplomatic collision course with the US, Pope John Paul today condemned the possibility of a war in Iraq, saying it was avoidable and would be a “defeat for humanity”.
“No to war! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity,” he said in his annual “state of the world” address to diplomats from 175 countries accredited to the Vatican.
Diplomats said his clear and forceful words appeared to signal the start of a new diplomatic crisis with the US — a repeat of the one which broke out between the Holy See and Washington over the Gulf war in 1991.
“And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than 12 years of embargo',” he said.
“War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations,” he said in a clear reference to the military build-up for a possible US-led war against Iraq.
“War itself is an attack on human life since it brings in its wake suffering and death. The battle for peace is always a battle for life,” he said. He said international law and diplomacy were the only means worthy of resolving differences.
“War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations,” he said.
This was a reference to the Roman Catholic Church’s teaching of a “just war.”
During the Gulf war in 1991, relations between the Vatican and the US were strained because the Pope refused to state unequivocally that the conflict was a “just” one.
The Church teaches that a “just war” requires that the use of military force should meet rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy.