Vatican Gathers OSCE-Nation Envoys to Discuss Iraq and Russia

Peace, and Expulsion of Priests, Among Holy See’s Concerns

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VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 19, 2002 ( The Vatican convoked the ambassadors of countries in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, to express itself on issues such as Iraq, and Russia’s expulsion of Catholic priests.

According to diplomatic sources contacted by ZENIT, during the meeting Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican secretary for relations with states, also expressed John Paul II’s claims in regard to the European Constitution and the Church’s position on development, in the wake of the Johannesburg summit.

Fifty-five OSCE-country ambassadors to the Vatican were invited to the meeting Monday. Among those present were the Russian and U.S. ambassadors.

The Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera reported today the three fundamental guidelines expressed by Archbishop Tauran in face of a possible military operation against Iraq.

They were: A preventive war is not the «appropriate means» to eliminate the threat posed by Iraqi arms and to have real peace «mature»; an eventual «recourse to force» should be decided in the framework of the United Nations; and such a decision should keep in mind the consequences for the civilian population.

This type of meeting of ambassadors of a particular regional association, called by the Vatican, is exceptional. The last one took place in March 1999, when Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican secretary of state, met with NATO and U.N. Security Council representatives to discuss the Balkans crisis.

In regard to the eventual European Constitution, Archbishop Tauran recalled John Paul II’s requests that the European Convention take into consideration the role that religion played and plays in forging the Continent.

On Jan. 10, the Pope lamented the absence of representatives of communities of believers in the convention, the political and civil forum entrusted with proposing the EU’s institutional reforms.

Archbishop Tauran referred as well to the wave of expulsions of Catholic priests and a bishop from Russia. A recent Vatican Press Office statement referred to an «authentic religious persecution.»

Lastly, the Vatican secretary for relations with states expressed the Holy See’s satisfaction over the «commitment» assumed during the recent World Summit on Sustainable Development. But it deplored that the human person was not placed at the center of development in the fundamental principles, he said.

The summit did not accept the attempt by some delegations to make the promotion of abortion an integral part of the summit’s plan of action.

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