Papal Emissary Hopes to Meet with Saddam

Cardinal Etchegaray Makes Contacts with Government

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BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 12, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, John Paul II’s special envoy to Iraq, confirmed that he will meet with Saddam Hussein to hand him a letter from the Pope.

Following a meeting with Iraqi Vice President Taha Yasin Ramadan, and with Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, the cardinal said today that contacts with the government are contributing to prove “the importance implied in a climate of confidence among us.”

The cardinal was mandated by the Pope to remind Iraqi authorities about their grave responsibility to avoid the war and to comply with their international duties, a Vatican note explained last Sunday.

Before meeting with Iraqi officials, Cardinal Etchegaray told the press: “I have come for a spiritual mission of peace. We all want peace.”

The cardinal celebrated Mass and prayed for peace in the Chaldean Church of St. Joseph in Baghdad.

In statements to Vatican Radio, Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of the Patriarchate of Babylon of the Chaldeans said that for Iraq’s 500,000 Catholics (most of them of the Chaldean rite) the cardinal’s visit is a sign of hope.

“It is a grace and a hope for all the Christians of Iraq because, as we all know, the Pope loves Iraq very much,” he said.

“He doesn’t miss an opportunity to talk about Iraq and peace because, as he said the other day, war doesn’t achieve anything, while peace is the foundation of the good of humanity,” the Chaldean prelate said.

“The Iraqi people are certainly living through a very difficult situation,” he added. “We pray that the Lord will send peace and that war will not come. What can we do? We abandon ourselves in the hands of the Lord and of all who act with good will.”

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