DAILY CATHOLIC WEDNESDAY November 3, 1999 vol. 10, no. 208
NEWS & VIEWS
IRAQ GUARANTEES NON-POLITICAL NATURE OF PAPAL VISIT
Statements by Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan
BAGHDAD, NOV 2 (ZENIT).- On November 1, Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan gave assurances that his country would be pleased to welcome John Paul II and that the papal visit will not be manipulated for political ends, but be respected as a religious pilgrimage.
"The visit is something normal. Iraq welcomes everyone who comes to visit," the Vice-President said to the local press, while visiting a commercial fair in Baghdad. Yassin Ramadan said that his country is not looking for political profit from the visit.
John Paul II hopes to go on pilgrimage to various original sites of Revelation. In a letter published on June 29, the Holy Father confirmed his intention to visit Ur of the Chaldeans, Abraham's birthplace, considered the Father in faith of believers of the three monotheist religions.
However, in the document the Pope states that his tour of the places of the Old and New Testament has a strictly spiritual character. Consequently, he wants to avoid any political interpretation or manipulation of his visit.
Some time ago, a group of Iraqi intellectuals published a document, which was received by the country's official agency, in which they protested against the papal visit to Abraham's land, considering it an offense to Islam. Because of this unfounded objection, and the lack of an official invitation, preparations for the papal trip to Iraq were halted. Later, following a visit from the Catholic Chaldean Patriarch of Baghdad, His Beatitude Raphael Bidawid, it was announced that the trip had been postponed and that it could take place at the end of January, 2000.
Through diplomatic channels, Britain and the United States have expressed
to the Vatican their opposition to the papal visit to Iraq. They are
convinced Saddam Hussein will use the trip for political purposes. However,
in statements to ZENIT, France's Foreign Minister Hubert Vedrine (Cf.
ZE99101007), said "that a trip of the Pope has never been manipulated by
any regime ... but it is not for us to encourage or discourage the Pope's
visit to Iraq."
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NEWS & VIEWS