NEW YORK - May 21 - In anticipation of Pope John Paul IIs upcoming meeting with President George W. Bush at the Vatican, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and Catholic leaders from around the globe have raised the level of religious criticism aimed at world leaders who orchestrated the war in Iraq.
We who know that true peace can never be achieved through bombs and weapons of war must appeal to the consciences of all those who lead our nations into the ways of death blindlythose leaders who with an erroneous religious conscience think that they are doing the will of God, said the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, Michel Sabbah. A leader who believes in God and comes to the presence of God and calls for war must examine and reexamine the veracity and the coherence of his own prayer and presence before God.
Sabbah delivered his remarks in a sermon given at Seton Hall University in New Jersey during the opening liturgy of the Pax Christi International council meeting on Thursday. Pax Christi International, the international Catholic peace movement at work in more than 50 countries, is holding their international council meetings in the United States for the first time in their 50-year history.
Sabbah, the bishop-president of Pax Christi International, concelebrated the opening liturgy with Archbishop Laurent Monsengwo of the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Bishop Alvaro Leonel Ramazzini Imeri of Guatemala. His opening sermon questioned the motivation of the U.S.-driven War on Terrorism and referenced the recent revelations of torture and human rights violations in Iraq.
When the first pictures (of torture and violence committed against detainees) were made public, we heard President Bush, Secretary Rumsfeld and Prime Minister Blair express their outrage at such treatment
expressing their sorrow and the sorrow of their countries for such cruelty, Sabbah said. But such apologies are empty if the mentalitythe worldviewthat spawned such disregard for the value and dignity of human life is not also acknowledged and ultimately transformed.
Following the opening liturgy, Catholic bishops and religious and lay leaders from around the world discussed issues related to international security and disarmament, human rights and economic justice as part of commission meetings throughout the day. The critique and considerations from those meetings will culminate in an international consultation, From the War on Terrorism to Inclusive Security, on Saturday, with participants from Brazil, Cambodia, Croatia, India, Israel/Palestine, Pakistan, South Africa, Germany and 20 other countries.
With the recent announcement of President Bushs planned visit with Pope John Paul II in June, international council participants are hopeful that the leader of the worlds largest Christian community will continue to speak out strongly against the war in Iraq and elsewhere.
From the beginning, the Holy Father was adamant in condemning President Bushs plans for war in Iraq, said Dave Robinson, national director of Pax Christi USA, a section of Pax Christi International. We in Pax Christi represent millions of faithful Catholics from around the world who heeded the popes cry that War is a defeat for humanity, and worked to stop this war in Iraq as well as the wars in Israel/Palestine, Colombia, Haiti and elsewhere in the world.
As Patriarch Sabbah reminded us today: The seeds of war will never bear the fruit of peace.