Cardinal Etchegaray's Visit Helped Raise Church's Profile for Iraqis

BAGHDAD, Iraq, FEB. 18, 2003 ( A Catholic leader in Iraq says that Cardinal Roger Etchegaray’s visit gave Iraqis a new view of the Church’s commitment to peace.

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“There is very little talk in Iraq about what the Holy Father does in favor of peace. The media do not give much space to this issue,” Latin-rite Archbishop Jean Benjamin Sleiman of Baghdad said in statements to Vatican Radio.

On this occasion, however, public television gave ample coverage to the peace mission of the 80-year-old Basque French cardinal.

“It showed the people, especially those who were seeing a cardinal for the first time, the existence of Masses for peace, the peace events organized by Catholics,” he explained.

According to the archbishop, the cardinal’s visit brought relief to the Iraqi people. “Although deep down, anxiety remains, as many are afraid that all this diplomatic effort will not stop the war machine that is already in motion,” he said.

The archbishop added: “We are not naive. We know that there are problems, even enormous ones, but they will not be resolved by war.”

“I would like the expression ‘preventive war’ to be replace by ‘preventive diplomacy,'” he concluded.

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