Vatican, Dec. 16 ( - Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has responded to stories about the proposed trial of Saddam Hussein with a reminder that Pope John Paul II opposes the death penalty.

Cartinal Martino also pointed out that the European Union and other international bodies have stated their fixed opposition to capital punishment.

He said that the trial of the former Iraqi leader should be prompt and fair, taking place at an appropriate location.

In the first public statement by any Vatican official on the capture of Saddam Hussein, Cardinal Martino said that while the arrest was a major step, it "does not mean a complete solution to the problem" in Iraq. The cardinal-- who was one of the Vatican's most outspoken critics of the war in Iraq-- said that the dictator's capture was not an adequate compensation for "the defeat that the war itself represented" for the cause of peace.

Cardinal Martino acknowledged that the bloody record of the former Iraqi regime indicated that Saddam Hussein "bears a heavy responsibility" for his actions. But he cautioned against "brutal consequences" that could follow from his arrest. He said that he felt "compassion" for the deposed Iraqi leader after seeing television footage of his first hours in captivity, saying that Saddam had been treated "like a beast" when television cameras showed him being given a physical examination.


Baghdad, Dec. 16 (FIDES/ - The news that Saddam Hussein had been captured was welcomed with great joy in Iraq, a priest of the Nineve diocese told the Fides news service, despite the people's fears about an uncertain future.

Father Nizar Semaan told Fides that the uncertainty is heightened for Iraqi people because "we know that behind the repeated acts of terrorism in Iraq
there are other groups not connected with the former dictator."

However, the Iraqi priest said: "The arrest of Saddam Hussein is the end of a chapter in the history of Iraq--a chapter of crimes against humanity, injustice, poverty, sanctions, emigration of youth in desperate search of a better future. Now we can turn the page. "

"To do this we must rid ourselves of the shadows of the past," the priest continued. "The people want to know what really happened in 30 years of dictatorship. They want, not revenge but truth and justice. This is why the trial must be open-- no secrecy-- and the acts open for public viewing."

"I also think that the court which judges Saddam Hussein should be formed not only of Iraqis," Father Nizar added courageously. "Most of us were victims of his dictatorship, we all applauded him when he was in power. We are too involved to be able to pass objective judgment. It would be better to have an international court which includes Iraqis among the judges."