by Peter Stanford CARDINAL Basil Hume has written to Conservative .Party chairman Chris Patten stressing the church's abhorrence of war and urging that military action be taken only as a last resort when all else has failed to force Saddam Hussein to leave Kuwait.
As the UN deadline for an Iraqi withdrawal by January 15 approaches, the cardinal joined with other clerics and church organisations in reiterating the need to search every avenue for peace.
Emphasising the unacceptability of Iraq's invasion of Kuwait, Cardinal Hume sets out for Mr Patten, the only Catholic member of the cabinet, the second Vatican Council's condemnation, in Gaudium el spes, of warfare. "Divine providence urgently commands us to rid ourselves of the ancient slavery of war", he quotes from the document.
Politicans and military leaders must be guided in taking any decision to go to war by the principle of proportionality, the cardinal writes. In this context he draws attention to the likely long-term political and
environmental damage of military action in the Gulf; and the warning in Gaudium et spes that destruction of cities and their inhabitants is "a crime against man and God, to be firmly and unhesitatingly condemned".
The cardinal concludes his letter to Mr Patten with a warning that to go to war over Kuwait must be "a last resort" only undertaken after "a careful assessment of the actual and potential impact of sanctions on Iraq and the likelihood of their achieving an Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait". Before the outbreak of hostilities the cardinal urges "a determination to pursue every opportunity for a diplomatic solution, recognising that UN Resolution 660 not only demands the withdrawal of Iraqi forces from Kuwait but also calls for immediate negotiations between Iraq and Kuwait".
Leading article, page 4; Bruce Kent, page 5; Letters, page 4
In addition to the cardinal's last minute appeal to Mr Patten the bishops' conference of England and Wales earlier this week asked all Catholics "tc renew their prayers for peace at this crucial time". They called for one mass in each parish on Sunday to be dedicated to peace.
Other voices raised for peace in this tense week which saw the meeting in Geneva of Iraqi Foreign Minister Tariq Aziz and US Secretary of State James Baker included the Carmelite friars at Aylesford in Kent who
in a letter to the Catholic Herald
plead that if the west has to quarrel with Saddam Hussein, it should not be "at the cost of wholesale slaughter of the innocent over a vast area of the Arabian peninsula".
The outcome of the war, even if American and British forces are victorious, will be "a legacy of bitter hatred between westerners and Arabia", the Aylesford friars warn. "Any possibility of a solution to the root cause of Middle Eastern tensions would be rendered impossible".
The Catholic Institute for International Relations, which has worked for the past 20 years in the Gulf region in development, has also appealed for a peaceful solution. The
January 15 deadline is "a great opportunity to turn imminent tragedy into a peace process that could lead to the demilitarisation and denuclearisation of the Middle East", it said.
The Catholic bishops of Birmingham, Portsmouth and Northampton have joined with their fellow Anglican, Orthodox, Baptist, Methodist and United Reformed colleagues in the Oxford region to call for January 15 to be set aside as a day of prayer "for a just order and a lasting peace, first in the Gulf, and then in the Middle East as a whole".