Irish Catholic Bishops' Statement on Iraq

«War Would Indeed Be a Defeat for Humanity»

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DUBLIN, Ireland, MARCH 14, 2003 ( Following their spring meeting this week, the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference issued the following statement on the Iraqi crisis.

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As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of St Patrick, who brought the Gospel of Peace to Ireland, there is great tension in the world regarding the Iraqi situation. Whether or not war should be declared on Iraq raises questions of profound moral and religious concern, as is clear from recent public demonstrations in Ireland. As the UN Security Council prepares to meet yet again to consider a further Resolution on Iraq, it is essential that our attitude in Ireland to this debate is based on sound moral and humanitarian principles.

Earlier this year Pope John Paul II emphatically said: «No to war … War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity». The Irish Bishops’ Conference wishes to add its voice of that of the Holy Father, and to the Bishops’ Conferences of the United States, England & Wales, France and many other countries on this issue. The resort to war on Iraq would indeed be a defeat for humanity and we would all be greatly diminished by it. Furthermore we must consider the consequences of any war on the people of Iraq.

We are heartened by the position taken recently by the Irish Government on the UN Security Council in upholding the role of the United Nations and the primacy of International Law. The United Nations Charter requires all states to refrain from the «threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political integrity of any state». There is a danger now that this key requirement of international peace and security will be put aside as the option of a pre-emptive war is being actively considered. We urge the Irish Government to reject such a course of action and to continue to work diplomatically for a just solution based on law and on humanitarian principles. In the words of Pope John Paul II, «War cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option». In our view, the case has not been made that such a war is the very last option.

In appealing to the Irish Government, and through them to other world leaders, to take all possible steps to actively promote a political solution to this crisis, we beg the Iraqi leadership to cease its repression of the Iraqi people and to cooperate fully with the Arms Inspectors.

We are particularly concerned about the humanitarian disaster that will befall Iraq in the event of war. Trócaire, the Irish Catholic Agency for World Development, is already playing a key role in preparing for such an outcome by helping to provide food and medicines for wounded and displaced civilians throughout Iraq. Furthermore many Iraqi church workers have received specialised training to help cope with the crisis if it occurs. We urge our people to be as generous as possible in contributing to all organisations involved in this humanitarian effort.

In reaffirming our support for all persons and groups who are engaged in the building of peace and the promoting of justice, we encourage the Irish people to continue to pray fervently that a peaceful solution may yet be found and that the many years of human suffering in Iraq can be brought to a just and peaceful end.

«Blessed are the peacemakers: they shall be called children of God» (Matthew 5:9).

[Original text]

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