BY CHRISTINA WHITE
Cllt IL( II leaders in England and Wales appealed this week for prayers for the Armed Forces, service families and the people of Iraq.
In a statement made in London on Monday, Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham said he wished to echo the words of the Holy Father, calling on Iraq to collaborate fully with the international community to eliminate any reason for armed intervention.
He asked Catholics to renew their efforts for prayer and to remember the families of military personnel in the Gulf, for the people of Iraq "in their fear and dread", and for political and military leaders. Military action should be undertaken with "scrupulousness and attention to the requirements of the Geneva Convention," he said.
Asked whether military action was justified, he said the public must "bear in mind the last 12 and a half years and weigh in the balance how repressive the regime in Iraq has been".
The archbishop, who represents a multiethnic community called, for the ties and relationships between Muslim, Christian and Jew not to be broken by the "tragic events that seem to be ahead of us".
"My hope is that the communities will hold together, and not be put off course," he said.
Bishop Patrick O'Donoghue of Lancaster, an outspoken critic of armed intervention, continued to plead for prayers and for peace.
"In these final hours, and before the darkness of war descends upon Iraq, I continue In hope and to pray for peace, and I urge you to do the same," he said on Tuesday.
"For many a long day to come, people will question why it was that the United Nations was marginalised. War is not a solution, as the Pope and so many others have said again and again."
The Catholic bishops of Ireland expressed their concern for the "humanitarian disaster that will befall Iraq in the event of war".
"We urge our people to be as generous as possible in contributing to all organisations involved in this humanitarian effort," they said.