VATICAN CITY, JUNE 4, 2004 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II appealed to U.S. President George Bush for the return of Iraq to full sovereignty as soon as possible, with the participation of the international community, in particular the United Nations.
During an audience in the Vatican today, the Pope also called for “new negotiations” for peace in the Holy Land, programs to put an end to the “intolerable conditions” of Africa, and greater cooperation for peace between the United States and Europe.
The Holy Father expressed his appreciation of the Bush administration’s commitment to the promotion “of moral values in American society.”
John Paul II voiced these concerns in his address to Bush, whom he received with the president’s wife Laura and his entourage of about 50, including Secretary of State Colin Powell.
The Pope and U.S. president spoke alone for 15 minutes in the Holy Father’s private library.
John Paul II then greeted the president’s entourage in the Clementine Hall. His voice, clear at first, weakened at the end, as he delivered a long address in English.
Bush’s visit to the Vatican was the first in a tour through Europe to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Rome and to remember the U.S. soldiers who gave their lives for the freedom of the peoples of Europe.
The Pontiff began by reiterating the Holy See’s position on the Middle East.
In regard to Iraq, he expressed “the evident desire of everyone that this situation now be normalized as quickly as possible with the active participation of the international community and, in particular, the United Nations Organization, in order to ensure a speedy return of Iraq’s sovereignty, in conditions of security for all its people.”
“The recent appointment of a head of state in Iraq and the formation of an interim Iraqi government are an encouraging step towards the attainment of this goal,” the Pope said.
In regard to the Holy Land, he called for “new negotiations, dictated by a sincere and determined commitment to dialogue, between the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
“The threat of international terrorism remains a source of constant concern,” he said. “It has seriously affected normal and peaceful relations between states and peoples since the tragic date of 11 September 2001, which I have not hesitated to call ‘a dark day in the history of humanity.'”
“In the past few weeks other deplorable events have come to light which have troubled the civic and religious conscience of all, and made more difficult a serene and resolute commitment to shared human values: In the absence of such a commitment neither war nor terrorism will ever be overcome,” the Holy Father said.
“May God grant strength and success to all those who do not cease to hope and work for understanding between peoples, in respect for the security and rights of all nations and of every man and woman,” he continued.
John Paul II encouraged the “commitment” of the U.S. government and of numerous humanitarian agencies of that country “particularly those of Catholic inspiration, to overcoming the increasingly intolerable conditions in various African countries, where the suffering caused by fratricidal conflicts, pandemic illnesses, and a degrading poverty can no longer be overlooked.”
The Holy Father also expressed his “great appreciation” for “your commitment to the promotion of moral values in American society, particularly with regard to respect for life and the family.”
Finally, John Paul II urged “a fuller and deeper understanding between the United States of America and Europe,” so that together they will have “a decisive role in resolving the great problems … confronted by humanity today.”
Bush’s visit to the Vatican lasted less than two hours and took place amid tight security measures.