VATICAN CITY, JUNE 3, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Following his recent visit to Iraq, Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum,” made this statement to journalists. The statement has been slightly adapted here.
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In these months, the Holy Father has repeatedly expressed his concern for the events that are occurring in Iraq. Before the war, he sent as his special envoy Cardinal Etchegaray, to search for a negotiated solution to the imminent conflict and thus to safeguard peace.
Following that visit, he asked me to be the spokesman, after the wartime events, of his spiritual closeness to those who have gone through sorrowful consequences of the war in these past months.
My visit began last May 28. Together with the apostolic nuncio, Archbishop Filoni, I celebrated the Eucharist on three occasions with the Catholics of that country: on May 29 in Baghdad, on the 31st in Mosul in the Chaldean rite and on June 1 in the Syrian Catholic rite. Therefore, I could address myself to the Christian Community, present each time in overwhelming number, confirming the paternal union and encouragement of the Holy Father.
During my visit, numerous meetings were held, in particular, two reunions with more than ten bishops: with them I have reflected especially on the significance of the charitable commitment in the ecclesial mission. Moreover, I met both with various bishops of other Christian confessions in Baghdad and in Mosul, and also with the civil authority; the director general of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), Mr. Francis Dubois; the mayor of Mosul; and some diplomatic representatives.
Besides, I had the chance of visiting some religious congregations and the respective charitable institutions, which they administer, among which St. Raphael’s Hospital, the Home of Mother Teresa’s Sisters and the institution for young girls in Mosul. Every one has expressed gratitude to the Holy Father for his tireless commitment to the people of Iraq and to peace. Having experienced a great spirit of communion and collaboration among Christians in Iraq, I have assured them that I will refer these sentiments of profound recognition to His Holiness.
In accordance with the given mandate and the task of our Vatican department (the Pontifical Council “Cor Unum”), I could verify personally the necessities of the country in view of a plan of aid which will involve the Catholic humanitarian organizations. They have already identified some sectors of intervention such as emergency aid, food, housing, health, and education. Many Catholic aid agencies are intending to take charge, together with other institutions, of these necessities.
As per the “Declaration of the Patriarchs and the Bishops in Iraq” of April 29, 2003, I wish to confirm the contribution that the Catholic Church could give for a future in which the religious, cultural, social and political rights of all are acknowledged, and in particular, where Christians are guaranteed the right to profess freely their own faith.
[Original text: English; distributed by Vatican press office]