Cardinal Etchegaray on meeting with Saddam Hussein

 Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, made the following statement to journalists on Sunday following his meeting with Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The French cardinal was sent as a special envoy to the region by Pope John Paul II. He said: "I understand that you have been awaiting the present moment with great interest, given the importance of the meeting I have just left. For your part, you understand that the spiritual nature of my mission gives my words a special tone to which you are doubtless used to. The Church indeed has her own way of speaking of peace, making peace, among those who, for diverse reasons, employ themselves with such great tenacity. The Church, according to words by Pope John Paul II, is the spokesman of the 'moral conscience of mankind in its purest state, of a mankind that desires peace, that needs peace'. "It is in this sense that my meeting with President Saddam Hussein touched upon concrete questions that I cannot mention through respect for the person who sent me as well as for the person who received me: It is a matter of seeing if everything has been done to safeguard peace while establishing a climate of confidence that allows Iraq to rediscover its place in the international community. At the heart of our meeting were the Iraq people who, I have noted from Baghdad to Mossoul, aspire so much to a just and lasting peace after years of suffering, for which the Pope and the universal Church have always expressed their solidarity. "In the name of the Pope, I dare to appeal to the conscience of all those who, in these decisive days, shoulder the future of peace. For, in the end, it is one's conscience which will have the final word, which is stronger than all strategies, all ideologies and even all religions." Prior to his departure from Baghdad, the Cardinal said: "I have just lived in Iraq several days of extraordinary intensity in communion with the person who sent me, Pope John Paul II. Rarely have I ever felt that I was not only the bearer of his message of peace, but that he himself was also present. I only followed him to the midst of the Christian communities, of all the Iraqi people, to President Saddam Hussein who listened at length and deeply to the living word that comes from God and that every believer, descendants of Abraham, welcomes as the most certain leaven of peace. "As I leave this land unjustly cut off from others, I would like to be more than a simple echo, the amplification of the aspiration of a country that has a pressing need for peace. "Among the great clouds that have overshadowed these times, there is a small opening. But no one must abandon their efforts. The new and brief respite which has been given us must be used by everyone full time and in a spirit of reciprocal trust to answer the exigencies of the international community. The least of steps in coming days has the value of a great step forward towards peace. "Yes, peace is still possible in Iraq and for Iraq. I leave for Rome, shouting this more strongly than ever before." Source: Vatican Information Service

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