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Prelate Says Conflict is a "World War" March 21, 2003

A Vatican prelate with extensive diplomatic experience has referred to the war in Iraq as a "world war."

Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, who visited Baghdad in February as a special envoy from Pope John Paul II, told a Vatican Radio audience that the diplomatic efforts of the Holy See achieved at least some result. "Thanks to the enormous efforts made during these last few weeks to avoid war, we could say that the conscience of mankind has been awakened," he said.

In the most striking words of his radio interview, the cardinal said: "What has struck me recently-- and I think a lot about it-- is that up until now, in schools we are taught about the two world wars. But the one that has just now broken out, I believe, should also be described as a 'world war,' because its impact really touches the whole world."

Cardinal Etchegaray has carried out several delicate assignments for Pope John Paul II since resigning from full-time service in the Roman Curia. The 80-year old French prelate is a former president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.

The present president of that Pontifical Council, Archbishop Renato Martino, told Vatican Radio that Pope John Paul was "very pained and disappointed" by the American decision to undertake military action. He explained that the Pope insists that war must be seen only as a final recourse, when all diplomatic means have failed. The archbishop-- who until recently was the Holy See's representative at UN headquarters in New York-- said "that is not the case" in the current situation.

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