DAILY CATHOLIC    WEDNESDAY     September 8, 1999     vol. 10, no. 170

from a CATHOLIC perspective

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        In an editorial published last week in the Jordan Times, the negative attitude of the U.S. government towards John Paul II's possible visit to Iraq is brought under examination and questioned.

        "Washington," the article begins, "is voicing opposition even to the thought of Pope John Paul II visiting Iraq as part of his tour of biblical sites in the Middle East region on the occasion of the advent of the third Millennium."

        Even though no concrete itinerary has been confirmed by the Vatican, it is expected that the Pope would like to include at least a brief visit to Iraq, which has set off an international debate as to whether or not the Iraqi regime would exploit such a high profile visit by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church to its advantage.

        "While it is obvious that the purpose of the Pope's trip to Iraq to visit the birthplace of the Prophet Abraham is purely religious," the editorial affirms, "Washington insists on viewing it as politically charged."

        The article points out that "the U.S. has made its views well-known to the Vatican" that they do not consider a trip at this time to Iraq the politically correct thing to do.

        "Perhaps what worries the Clinton administration," the author suggests, "is the Vatican's open rejection of the sanctions ... being applied against Iraq which it regards as a form of collective punishment against the innocent Iraqi people."

        "At a time when the international community is voicing increasing concern over and opposition to the imposition of the nearly decade-old grueling and indiscriminate sanctions on Iraq," it says, "only a few countries, notably the U.S. and Britain, still cling to the bankrupt sanctions policy."

        The article further questions Washington's other efforts to block any kind of recognizance mission whatsoever to Iraq in order to observe first-hand the real social and economic situation of the country.

        "Even the impending benign visit by U.S. congressional aides to Iraq to gather information on the implications of the sanctions on the Iraqi people," the editorial sustains, "is being fought tooth and nail by Washington."

        "Perhaps the U.S. does not want the truth about the dire effects of the sanctions on the Iraqi people, especially on their children, to be further documented for the whole international community to hear and see," it suggests.

        In conclusion, the author asks: "How else can one explain the opposition to the visit of the Pope, the assistants of members of the U.S. Congress and other groups of people whose only agenda is to get at the truth behind the sanctions against Iraq and its people?." ZE99090627

        Meanwhile, Catholic World News reports that Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has ordered that improvements be made to the ancient city of Ur, birthplace of the biblical patriarch Abraham, in anticipation of a visit by Pope John Paul II later this year, according to newspapers in Baghdad on Tuesday.

        According to the reports, the Iraqi government set up a commission representing the Presidential Office and the ministries of culture, religious affairs, and information. The articles said the committee will submit proposals, but made no mention of the papal visit.

        The politically sensitive trip to Iraq is part of the Holy Father's plan to visit significant sites in the Old and New Testaments as part of millennial celebrations. Ur is 200 miles south of Baghdad in a desert area and contains the Ziggurat, a three-tiered pyramid, among the oldest in the world.

        Patriarch Raphael I Bidawid of the Eastern-rite Chaldean Church said in a French interview on Friday that the official announcement of the trip would be made by Iraq and the Vatican this week, and that the date of the trip would be set for early December.

Articles provided through Catholic World News and Church News at Noticias Eclesiales and International Dossiers, Daily Dispatches and Features at ZENIT International News Agency. CWN, NE and ZENIT are not affiliated with the Daily CATHOLIC but provide this service via e-mail to the Daily CATHOLIC Monday through Friday.

September 8, 1999       volume 10, no. 170


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