This afternoon - shortly after it was announced that diplomatic efforts to avert war with Iraq had virtually ended, the Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Vincent Nichols issued a brief statement about the crisis. Speaking in London at the Foreign Press Association, he pointed out that his comments only related to events today "as the situation is changing very rapidly." He said: "There are three things I'd like to say. The first is to repeat the appeal the Holy Father made yesterday in St Peters Square. He said his urgent appeal was to the leaders of Baghdad who have the urgent duty to collaborate fully with the international community to eliminate any reasons for armed intervention. He said these words: 'To them I direct my pressing appeal.' " I would like to ask all Catholics to really renew their efforts for prayer... My prayer in particular now focusses more and more on the families and the military personnel who obviously are full of anxieties; for the people of Iraq in their fear and dread; and for the political and military leaders in the decisions that they face and will make in the days to come. My prayer is for that last group in particular, that they will take every conceivable care to conduct any military action that may happen with scrupulosity and attention to the requirements of the Geneva Convention. I ask people today to pray for all those whose lives are about to be disrupted or lost. "Thirdly I would like to repeat the appeal I made earlier, that the relationships between Jews, Christians and Moslems especially in this country and in the West Midlands and the Archdiocese of Birmingham - that these relationships may not be broken by whatever tragic events that now seem to be ahead of us, and that together we continue - even at this last hour - to pray for a nonviolent resolution to the issues and problems of Iraq."
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