by Peter Stanford THE UNITED STATES military attack on Libya earlier this week has been roundly condemned by Pax Christi and other Catholic spokesmen in this country as unjustifiable and "grossly irresponsible". The US raid took place as church diplomats battled for the release of the leader of Libya's Catholic community, abducted by armed guards in Tripoli last Thursday.
Bishop Giovanni Martinelli, a 44-year-old Franciscan born in Libya of Italian parents, was released after the raid, along with three Franciscans and a nun, also seized last week.
Several people were left dead, and hundreds injured, including members of Colonel Gadaffy's family, by the US air raid, performed in part by fighter bombers based in this country.
Pax Christi, the international peace movement, released a statement in London which accused the United States of perpetrating "an act of unjustifiable war" which had "some elements of international terrorism itself because of its effects on individuals and peoples who are innocent in relation to the issue".
The "issue" which prompted the US air strike was Libya's alleged involvement in terrorist crimes including the bombing of a discotheque in west Berlin which left one US serviceman dead. The Reagan administration claimed to have "irrefutable proof" that Libya was behind this attack.
Pax Christi pointed out that this proof was not available, while stressing their condemnation of all terrorism. "But even such evidence would only provide grounds for serious international action, not for military strikes", Pax Christi emphasised.
The action taken by the United States "clearly contravenes international law since it is without international sanction and without moral or legal justification", Pax Christi said.
"In a world already so dangerous from the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the close interdependence of smaller states with nuclear powers, any sort of war, especially in the Middle East, could easily escalate into a nuclear exchange. It is therefore grossly irresponsible for the US to take this action".
Pax Christi urged all Christians "to affirm the priority of justice and mercy over violence and lack of restraint in the name of Shalom — the peace of God".
Vatican spokesmen refused to comment on the US raid, but pointed to the Pope's Easter message in which he vehemently condemned both terrorism and "reprisals". At the time, with Secretary of State George Shultz in the audience, the Pope's remarks were taken in a direct reference to US involvement with Libya.
Bishop James O'Brien, Chairman of the Department for International Affairs of the bishops' conference of England and Wales, told the Catholic Herald on Tuesday that he was watching the situation in Libya "with deep and growing
anxiety", after the US attack.
Bishop Martinelli, the Vicar Apostolic of Tripoli and Apostolic Delegate in Benghasi, was taken in his pyjamas from the Franciscan house in Benghasi on Thursday night by men who appeared to be members of a Gadaffy revolutionary cadre. Fr Zygmut Charymaki, a Polish Franciscan, Fr Giustino Sciortino OFM from Malta, and Fr Danilo Tereia, a Filipino, were also taken away, along with an Italian nun, Sr Gemma The Libyan leader denied all knowledge of the whereabouts of the bishop, and imposed a news black out on details of his seizure. However, on Tuesday afternoon, hours after US planes had bombed the two Libyan cities he was based in, the bishop and his assistants were released.
Bishop Marinelli, leader of Libya's 50,000 strong Catholic community, was appointed a bishop in 1985. On a recent visit to Italy he praised Colonel Gadaffy, leading the Italian press to describe the Libyan prelate as "the soldier of Christ with the colonel of Allah".
Catholic MP, Sir John BiggiDavison (Conservative, Epping Forest) challenged the wisdom of the military operation. , He said it was "well-known that Libya is a great centre of terrorism and that Colonel Gadaffy has helped the Provisional IRA."
But he added: "The question in my mind, suggestive in part by my memories of Suez, is whether the US operation, with its regrettable loss of life, is the best way of removing the terrorist regime in Libya. What matters is what follows."