Interview: Break the Chain of Hatred with Justice, Says Cardinal

American Edmund Casimir Szoka, at the Vatican

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ROME, SEPT. 12, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Like many around the world, U.S. Cardinal Edmund Casimir Szoka watched CNN´s broadcasts Tuesday in disbelief.

From his office, the president of the Pontifical Commission for Vatican City State watched the fallout from the terrorist attacks that heavily damaged the Pentagon, left the World Trade Center in rubble, and changed — maybe permanently — the psyche of his homeland.

Born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 74 years ago this Friday, Cardinal Szoka was archbishop of Detroit until 1990. His current duty makes him the American with the highest-level post in the Vatican.

During an interview, he showed intense emotion, and sometimes spoke with difficulty.

Q: Your Eminence, what are your feelings before this apocalyptic scene?

Cardinal Szoka: It is terrible to think of the 50,000 people who go to the World Trade Center every day, or the numerous employees of the Pentagon. Thousands of dead, of wounded. It is a tragedy. I have prayed in my chapel for all of them, for their families, for so much suffering caused by human beings.

The fact that we are not facing a country that has declared war is a source of anguish: They are terrorists. It is impossible to imagine and understand such great hatred, so extreme, which goes so far as to kill innocent people. Innocent! The victims are not military men, it is not an army at war, but people like all of us, like our families, people who work. It is unheard of.

Q: What is more, it is a complex action, coldly studied in an office.

Cardinal Szoka: It is a fact that gives rise to incredulity: a mind that is capable of elaborating such a diabolic strategy, of which, moreover, we do not yet know the details. In some countries there is extreme hatred against the United States for various reasons.

It is difficult to proffer hypotheses, but no doubt it is the action of a well-organized group that has much funding; just to conceive an attack of this dimension requires a large team.

Q: Will the Americans react with vengeance?

Cardinal Szoka: It is a temptation, but we, Americans, always prefer the way of law, and not so much that of retaliation against objectives that are difficult to imagine at this time. Is it possible to destroy totally a country that is an enemy of the United States?

We must always pray to find the way of peace, to break the unbridled logic of the one who wants to destroy life. I think Americans´ first desire is to find those responsible for this horror and prosecute them.

Q: How should a Christian react to someone who wishes to sow hatred and terror?

Cardinal Szoka: In the first place, we must pray for the victims and for peace, so that no extreme solution will be arrived at, a retaliation, to find ways to avoid new tragedies.

Q: One avenue points to Muslim fundamentalism — hatred in the name of God?

Cardinal Szoka: It is an unbearable contradiction. How can one believe in God and harbor so much hatred?

And yet, we see this ambiguity in action everywhere: in the Balkans, the Middle East, and Northern Ireland. Believers against believers, including Christians involved in acts of violence.

How is it possible to explain this tragedy without being conscious of original sin?

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