Baghdad-bound, Cardinal Etchegaray Is Counting on Prayer

Papal Envoy Arrives in Mideast for a Tough Mission

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ROME, FEB. 10, 2003 ( John Paul II’s peace envoy to Saddam Hussein arrived in Jordan today, en route to Baghdad, aware that his mission is «at the outermost limit of hope.»

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, president emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, explained his mission with these words in an interview published by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

The Basque-French cardinal is to give the Iraqi leader a letter signed by the Pope, reminding him of his duty to contribute to effective international cooperation, based on justice and international law.

«The Holy Father’s objective is to support all efforts being made everywhere to safeguard the much needed peace,» the cardinal said.

«The war would be a catastrophe under all aspects,» he said. «Above all, it would have grave consequences for the Iraqi people and, in addition, would make increasingly difficult the efforts of the U.N. in favor of the unity of the human family.»

Moreover, the problems in relations between the West and the Muslim world would become worse, the cardinal speculated.

The papal emissary’s plane landed this morning in Amman, Jordan. The 80-year-old cardinal was to enter Iraq on Tuesday.

The cardinal is no stranger to these lands. In December 1985 and January 1986 he visited prisoner-of-war camps in Iran and Iraq. In 1998, he went to Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham’s homeland, to plan a papal pilgrimage. In the end, the Iraqi regime did not allow it.

Cardinal Etchegaray said it would not be easy to convince Saddam Hussein.

«I know that I am called the envoy of impossible missions,» he said. «But do you know what I need? A prayer to accompany me on the way.»

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