Assisi Bishop Urges Aziz to Do All in His Power to Avoid War

Iraqi Visits Tomb of St. Francis

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ASSISI, Italy, FEB. 16, 2003 ( The bishop of Assisi appealed to the Iraqi deputy prime minister to do everything possible to avoid war and to shift funds from armaments to the struggle against poverty.

Bishop Sergio Goretti made this appeal Saturday before the tomb of St. Francis while handing the «light of peace» to the Iraqi official, Tariq Aziz, a Chaldean-rite Catholic.

«We join the Holy Father, who is making every possible effort to avoid the tragedy of war,» the bishop said. «The enormous resources spent on instruments of death should be used to reduce poverty and underdevelopment, so painfully present in the world.»

Bishop Goretti made his appeal «on behalf of those who will remain orphans, disabled and disfigured, of those who will remain homeless, without food, without love.»

The lamp of peace, held for a few moments by Aziz, is the same lamp that was lighted here by the world’s religious leaders on Jan. 24, 2002.

Saturday’s ceremony ended when all those present — among whom were friars of the various Franciscan branches — repeating in their own language the words John Paul II said on the occasion of the January 2002 event: «Violence never again! War never again! Terrorism never again! In the name of God, may every religion bring upon earth justice and peace, forgiveness and life, love!»

As a sign of unity, Aziz and Father Vincenzo Coli, Franciscan custodian of the basilica, together gripped the ivory horn that Egyptian sultan Melek el-Kamel gave to St. Francis in 1219.

Aziz lunched in the adjacent monastery with the friars of the basilica.

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