John Paul II Has Confidence in Bush, Says Papal Envoy

Cardinal Laghi Is Hopeful About Upcoming Washington Trip

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 3, 2003 ( John Paul II’s special envoy to meet with George W. Bush said that his mission proves the confidence that the Pope has in the U.S. president.

«I am going despite all the difficulties, hoping against all hope,» said Cardinal Pio Laghi, as he prepared for his trip to Washington, D.C.

The papal initiative, the cardinal said in an interview published Monday by the Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera, is proof of a great confidence: John Paul II «gives it to me and he gives it to the person he has asked me to meet.»

«I will insist, on behalf of the Pope, that every peaceful avenue be explored,» the cardinal said. «It is certainly necessary to obtain the disarmament of Saddam and of his regime, but insofar as possible, it must be achieved without the use of arms.»

Cardinal Laghi revealed that he will try to «cast light on the darkness of the repercussions of a possible war, as well as the sorrow and injustice it can cause to so many human beings.»

The cardinal said he will insist on the need to find a solution to the Iraqi crisis within the United Nations, and on the dramatic fallout a war might have for future dialogue with Islam.

«Is it appropriate to dig a new chasm between peoples?» the papal envoy will ask the U.S. president.

Cardinal Laghi is a personal friend of the former president and father of the current president. When the cardinal was apostolic nuncio in Washington, George Bush Sr. was vice president. They were virtually neighbors.

It is «a friendship that has lasted and that honors me greatly,» the cardinal said. «There is respect, esteem and affection. I do not have the same relationship with the current president. We will look at one another in the eyes and talk with courtesy, but it will not be a meeting between old friends.»

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