VATICAN CITY - A top Vatican official said Tuesday he felt pity and compassion for Saddam Hussein and criticized the U.S. military for showing video footage of him being treated "like a cow."
Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican's Justice and Peace department and a former papal envoy to the United Nations, told a news conference it would be "illusory" to think the arrest of the former Iraqi president would heal all the damage caused by a war which the Holy See opposed.
A top Vatican official said December 16, 2003 he felt pity and compassion for Saddam Hussein and criticized the U.S. military for showing video footage of him being treated 'like a cow.' Saddam is seen during an examination after his capture December 14, 2003. Photo by Reuters Tv/Reuters
"I felt pity to see this man destroyed, (the military) looking at his teeth as if he were a cow. They could have spared us these pictures," he said.
"Seeing him like this, a man in his tragedy, despite all the heavy blame he bears, I had a sense of compassion for him," he said in answer to questions about Saddam's arrest.
Martino was referring to the videotape released by the U.S. military which showed a grubby, bearded and disheveled Saddam receiving a medical examination by a military doctor after his capture in an underground hole Saturday.
Martino was one of the Vatican officials most strongly opposed to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.
"It's true that we should be happy that this (arrest) has come about because it is the watershed that was necessary... we hope that this will not have worse and other serious consequences," Martino said.
"But it is not the total solution to the problems of the Middle East," he said.
Martino said the Vatican hoped the arrest of Saddam "can contribute to promoting peace and the democratization of Iraq."
He added: "But is seems to me to be illusory to hope that this will repair the dramas and the damage of the defeat for humanity that a war always brings about."
The Vatican did not consider the war in Iraq "a just war" because it was not backed by the United Nations and because the Vatican believed more negotiations were necessary to avoid it.
Martino said the Vatican wanted an "appropriate institution" to put Saddam on trial but he did not elaborate.
U.S. forces were keeping the ousted 66-year-old dictator at a secret location for interrogation before he is put on trial in the months ahead. He could face the death penalty.
The news conference was called for Martino to present the World Day of Peace message, in which Pope John Paul took a swipe at the United States for invading Iraq without the backing of the United Nations.
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