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Church leaders speak against 'wicked' war on iraq

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Church leaders speak against 'wicked' war on Iraq

September 05, 2002

Church leaders speak against 'wicked' war

by ruth gledhill and phillip webster

BRITAIN’S two most senior churchmen have launched separate impassioned initiatives aimed at preventing war against Iraq.

In an article in The Times today the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, writes that a war would have grave consequences, possibly setting the Arab world against the West. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr George Carey, has also raised his concerns in a private letter to the Prime Minister.

Their interventions are the latest in a number by bishops opposed to action against Iraq — and their comments are increasingly irritating the Government and its advisers. One official said that remarks from some senior clerics suggested they regarded Saddam Hussein as liberal-minded.

Tony Blair himself has been careful to refrain from comment on the criticism other than to say: “You have to decide what the greatest risk is and what the morally right thing to do is." The Prime Minister has promised to publish evidence to support his conviction that Iraq poses a grave and imminent threat. However, Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor writes that unless the evidence is both persuasive and incontrovertible, concerns in this country and abroad are unlikely to be allayed.

Even with such evidence, important questions remained to be addressed, including the effect on international law and how well it would be respected in future if military action were not endorsed by the UN.

The Cardinal received swift backing from Catholic bishops and theologians both here and abroad. The Right Rev Thomas McMahon, one of four Catholic bishops who signed a Pax Christi petition handed to Mr Blair last month, said a strike against Iraq would be “wicked and foolhardy”.

Bishop McMahon said: “It would be wicked in the sense that it goes against Article 2 of the UN Charter. No matter how evil Iraq’s armaments are, unless and until the Iraqi Government itself launches an attack it is wrong for us to do so.”

Dr Eamon Duffy, Fellow and President of Magdalen College, Oxford, and president of the Catholic Theological Association, urged Mr Blair and President Bush to take heed of the Cardinal’s comments, which he described as a shrewd counsel of prudence and an urgent call to moraliy.

“If the democratic West is to retain moral credibility and if we are to avoid a murderous confrontation with an Islamic world radicalised by poverty and resentment of Western imperialism, then we have to move beyond defending our interests and punishing our enemies. We need to demonstrate our desire to share the freedoms and prosperities we enjoy with the world’s poor.”

Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit, said Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor did not go far enough in questioning the validity of a pre-emptive strike. He said going to war had to be a response to an attack. To strike first would be an unjustifiable act of terrorism and must be condemned outright.

But the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev Michael Nazir-Ali, said that military action against Iraq would be legitimate if there was persuasive evidence that Saddam Hussein was dedveloping weapons of mass destruction.


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