Vatican Update
[JUN. 09, 2000]
Catholic World News Service


VATICAN ( -- The Holy See reaffirmed its opposition to the
international sanction in Iraq in a statement released June 9, as the
president of the Iraqi parliament visited the Vatican.

Saadoun Hammadi was received by the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal
Angelo Sodano, and the Secretary for Relations with States, Archbishop Jean-
Louis Tauran. In an official statement released by the Holy See in connection
with that visit, the sanctions were denounced for creating hardships for the
civilian population of Iraq.

Cardinal Sodano told the Iraqi delegation that the Holy See feels sympathy
for the suffering people of Iraq. He also reminded his visitors that the
Vatican has spoken out frequently in opposition the international campaign
against Iraq. That opposition, he recalled, began with the Persian Gulf war
and has continued through a series of statements calling on international
leaders to end the embargo.

Prior to the Gulf War, Pope John Paul spoke out privately and publicly urging
a negotiated solution to the region's problems, the cardinal pointed out. On
January 16, 1991-- just hours before the beginning of the air campaign
against Iraq-- the Pontiff placed a personal telephone call to US President
George Bush, seeking to convince him to forestall the offensive.

While the visit by an Iraqi delegation to Rome helps to underline Vatican
support for efforts to ease the international sanctions, it also shows progress
in Vatican-Iraqi relations. No important Iraqi political figure had visited the
Vatican since December 1999, when the Holy See announced the cancellation
of plans for a papal visit to Iraq. At the time, there were clear indications of
tensions between the Vatican and the Iraqi leadership.