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President Bush rebuffed Pope John Paul's plea for peace in Iraq, source recalls

Catholic World News - September 27, 2011

In 2003, when Blessed John Paul II sent a special envoy to speak with President George W. Bush in a last-minute effort to avoid a war in Iraq, the American leader set aside the Pope’s personal message, and made it clear that he was committed to military action, according to a Vatican Insider account.

When Cardinal Pio Laghi met with Bush on March 5, 2003, he delivered a letter from Pope John Paul II. The President “immediately put it on a side table without opening or reading it,” according to an unnamed source who spoke with Cardinal Laghi about the meeting.

Cardinal Laghi—a retired Vatican official who was probably chosen for the special diplomatic assignment because he had been apostolic nuncio in Washington from 1984 to 1990, and was personally acquainted with Bush—said that the President spoke at some length, giving his justification for the war against Iraq. The papal envoy was forced to interrupt in order to deliver his message, he said.

Cardinal Laghi died in January 2009 at the age of 86. The Vatican Insider story does not identify the individual who spoke with him about the White House meeting, except to say that it is “a source close to the situation at that time.”

The cardinal warned Bush that war in Iraq would cause many deaths, result in a civil war in Iraq, and leave the US without a clear way to withdraw, the source said. But the President indicated that his mind was already made up.

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  • Posted by: John J Plick - Sep. 28, 2011 4:43 PM ET USA

    I continue to wonder at times what exactly the Vatican's concept of "peace" is...; merely the absence of war and/or persecution? To characterize peace as simply "not fighting" shows a depth of niavete that is frightening. If one truly wants "peace," the genuine kind, he had better be more than willing to "go to war..." I do not see that kind of spiritual propensity present in sufficient amounts either in the Vatican or the clergy..

  • Posted by: TheJournalist64 - Sep. 28, 2011 6:15 AM ET USA

    The neocons, always looking for ways to keep Israel out of the line of fire, were determined to eliminate the threat against that "ally" from Saddam. They found some useful idiots among Catholic prominents to falsely apply just war theory to the attack. Once their minds were made up, they wouldn't believe anything to the contrary, "even if someone came to them from the dead."

  • Posted by: jflare293129 - Sep. 28, 2011 6:04 AM ET USA

    This doesn't strike me as being a major revelation. We knew Catholic teachings had only minimal impact on the President's decision-making process well before 9/11 came along. Believing otherwise reflects an exceedingly poor comprehension of what really occupied people's minds.

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