Nuncio in Iraq Assesses Situation After One Year of War

Interview With Archbishop Fernando Filoni

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 21, 2004 ( At the first anniversary of the start of U.S.-led war in Iraq, Archbishop Fernando Filoni, the papal nuncio in that country, offered Vatican Radio an assessment of the situation.

Q: Has the war ended?

Archbishop Filoni: The first chapter, of course, has ended, that of the battle between two armies, if it can be said that it ever took place.

In any case, this chapter is closed. Certainly, the chapter is still open of the normalization of a country which has difficulty in accepting its state of occupation and obviously all that stems from this.

Q: Is the withdrawal of foreign troops from Iraq desirable?

Archbishop Filoni: The question is very delicate, because at present there is a lack of real local authority and, having dissolved all the preceding structures, the problem is to know what security will there be, if at present help is lacking from those already on the scene. Therefore, to be specific: The country must not be left in chaos.

Q: A year ago, you, together with the ambassador of Cuba, were the only diplomat who stayed in Baghdad during the Anglo-American attack on the Iraqi capital. What do you remember of those days?

Archbishop Filoni: More than memories, I would like to mention the lesson we must all try to learn from this event and from the year that Iraq has lived through, with its repercussions on the international level.

Such complex problems cannot be resolved by war, without dialogue, without good will for peace. War does not resolve such complex problems. If anything, it actually aggravates them.

Q: How does the Iraqi population live today?

Archbishop Filoni: It is a population that does not have a real economy properly speaking.

It tries to survive with the little it can do, because of the lack of work. It has health problems, problems of electrical and telephone services, etc. It is a situation of survival, it is not a genuine economy.

But given that it is a rich country, there is the hope that the economic fabric will be reconstructed on which the development of the whole country can be based.

Q: Has the war harmed coexistence between Muslims and the Christian minority?

Archbishop Filoni: No, no. The Christians lived absolutely through the same problems as the Muslims, the same difficulties.

They have had their dead, they have had their wounded just like the whole population. The problem at present is not religious; it is a problem of the whole of Iraq.

Q: What has changed in the Catholic Church with the fall of Saddam Hussein?

Archbishop Filoni: The Catholic Church continues its work, at present, trying to respond to the spiritual needs of the people, and also to offer moral and psychological support.

We continue to offer all those initiatives of humanitarian work, with a certain autonomy and freedom, as before everything had to be authorized. Now there is the autonomy and freedom to organize oneself according to one’s daily needs.

Q: Does this situation of chaos that Iraq is going through, damage the pastoral life of the Catholic minority?

Archbishop Filoni: More than damaging it, at times it limits it, because the lack of security obliges people not to leave home after a certain time. For example, they cannot attend traditional celebrations.

Q: What do you foresee for the future of Iraq?

Archbishop Filoni: As men of the Church, as Christians, hope is a virtue. In the traditional language one says «Inshallah,» that is, «if God so wills.»

Now, the sense of hope exists and continues to exist, and we also believe that a better future can come about gradually.

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