Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference President, Archbishop Francis Carroll has urged a renewed commitment to prayers for peace as diplomatic efforts to resolve the Iraq crisis give way to imminent military action.
Archbishop Carroll regretted the federal government’s decision to commit Australia’s defence forces to a war with Iraq, and said it would continue to be the subject of debate among people of good will.
On behalf of the Catholic Church in Australia, he assured the nation’s defence personnel in Iraq and their families of prayers and wholehearted support.
But Archbishop Carroll stood by earlier statements issued by the Catholic Bishops of Australia that raised moral questions about Australia’s role in a war with Iraq.
In particular the Bishops have questioned the moral legitimacy of a pre-emptive strike and the use of military force without the mandate of the United Nations Security Council.
“In our Ash Wednesday statement, the Catholic Bishops of Australia called on people to dedicate their Lenten prayer and fasting to peace,” he said.
“With our defence forces now committed to war in Iraq, I repeat that call and point to Pope John Paul II’s appeal in recent days for people ‘to increase the commitment to prayer and penance and to ask Christ for the gift of His peace. Without conversion of the heart there is no peace’.”
Despite the military action, the Pope continues to believe “there is still room for peace; it is never too late for mutual understanding and for continuing dialogue”.
Archbishop Carroll offered a special prayer of solidarity for the people of Iraq.
“I pray that the conflict in their homeland will be brief and that innocent civilians will be spared the ravages of direct engagement,” Archbishop Carroll said.
“One can now only hope that this conflict will lead to long term stability for Iraq, providing an added impetus for a permanent solution to Middle East conflict.”
Released by Debra Way at the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.