VATICAN CITY, FEB. 14, 2003 (Zenit.org).- John Paul II called for “concrete commitments” by Saddam Hussein’s government to respect U.N. resolutions on disarmament.
The Pope made his plea when he received Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz in audience today.
Aziz in turn told the Holy Father of “the will of the Iraqi government to cooperate with the international community, in particular in the matter of disarmament,” Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls reported.
Following a half-hour audience in the Pope’s private library, Aziz met with Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, secretary for relations with states.
Spokesman Navarro-Valls explained that the meetings “allowed for a wide exchange of points of view on the known danger of an armed intervention in Iraq, which would add further grave sufferings to those peoples, already tried by long years of embargo.”
In particular, the Holy See confirmed the need “to respect faithfully, with concrete commitments, the resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, guaranteed by international legality,” the Vatican spokesman said.
Also, “it was confirmed that the Catholic Church will continue its work of education for peace and for coexistence among peoples, so that in every circumstance peaceful solutions will be found,” he said.
In statements to Vatican Radio, Navarro-Valls said there was no mention in the meetings of a papal trip to Iraq.
“The Pope expressed three years ago his desire to visit Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham’s homeland,” he said. “For reasons that are obvious — that is, he was not allowed to make this trip — the Pope was unable to go to Iraq. So, for him it is a closed chapter.”
This was Tariq Aziz’s fourth visit to John Paul II in the Vatican. Aziz was born to a Chaldean Catholic family. The previous meetings took place in 1994, 1995 and 1998.
On this occasion, shaking Aziz’s hand firmly, the Pope said: “May God bless you; may God bless Iraq.”
The meeting sparked extraordinary interest in the media, particularly that of the United States, Japan, Russia, England and France, which sent special reporters to Rome to cover the audience. Italian authorities tightened security in the area around the Vatican.