Pope, religious leaders criticizes attacks on churches in Iraq

Posted: Friday, August 06, 2004

VATICAN CITY (AP) Pope John Paul II said the attacks on five Roman Catholic churches in Iraq during worship services were deplorable and he offered his solidarity to faithful there.

The coordinated attacks Sunday evening in Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul killed at least seven people, wounded more than 30 and shocked the nation's 750,000-strong Christian minority.

''The sorrowful news over the tragic attacks yesterday in Baghdad and Mosul against various Catholic communities gathered in prayer in their houses of worship struck me deeply,'' said the pope in a condolence telegram sent Monday to the Catholic patriarch, Emmanuel III Delly.

''In this hour of trial, I am spiritually close to the church and to Iraqi society, and I renew the expression of my emotional solidarity to pastors and faithful,'' said the pope, who was a staunch opponent of the war in Iraq.

''At the same time, I hope that all believers in one merciful God will unite in deploring every form of violence and will cooperate for the return of harmony in the tormented Iraqi land.''

Catholic Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of Washington, D.C., called the attacks ''disturbing.''

''The singling out of men and women of the Christian religion by other people who are also of the same family of Abraham is a new and most destabilizing element in this terrible civil conflict,'' McCarrick said.

The Rev. Samuel Kobia, general secretary of the Geneva-based World Council of Churches, which condemned the U.S.-led war on Iraq, said the bombings would undermine efforts to bring democracy to the country. The council represents churches in more than 100 countries.

''We strongly condemn all forms of violence which target religious communities or any group of people, and which seek to introduce religious enmity into this conflict,'' Kobia said.

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