Holy See Attending Conference on Iraq's Rebuilding

Will Stress Church’s Contribution and Need to Give Freedom to Christians

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MADRID, Spain, OCT. 22, 2003 (Zenit.org).- The Holy See is sending a delegation to a two-day conference of donors for Iraq’s reconstruction.

The papal representative at the two-day summit in Madrid will be Archbishop Paul Josef Cordes, president of the Pontifical Council «Cor Unum,» a Vatican organization responsible for the Pope’s charitable works. The summit ends Friday.

A «Cor Unum» statement sent today to ZENIT explained that Archbishop Cordes «hopes to emphasize the immediate material contribution of the Catholic Church for Iraq and, in particular, the historical contribution — the millennial and humanitarian presence of Christians in Iraq.»

«In Iraq, international Catholic aid and assistance organizations have intervened over these months in vital aspects: water, food, energy, medicine,» the statement adds. «Their role has been essential in the task of mediation between the political power and the weakest fringes» of the population.

Before flying to Madrid, Archbishop Cordes said: «When the Pope sent me to Iraq in May to coordinate the Catholic Church’s aid, I saw with my own eyes how appreciated and sought after the work of Christians is by the country’s Muslim majority but especially that of the Holy Father.»

According to the archbishop, the key to overcoming the slow progress in Iraq’s reconstruction lies in «the provisional Iraqi government and the other governments involved» giving «substantial freedom» to Christians, «as a guarantee for freedom and development for all.»

The Madrid conference, convoked by the Spanish government, will include U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan. The World Bank, U.N. and U.S. officials say that the aid promised by donor countries is far from the $56 billion required to rebuild Iraq.

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