.- Meeting with the Iraqi ambassador to the Holy See, Albert Edward Ismail Yelda, this morning, Pope John Paul II affirmed that the “entire Catholic Church” is committed to aiding the Iraqi people reconstruct their country and stressed the importance of inscribing the right to religious freedom and the principle of the defense of the dignity of all persons into law in order that they “become an enduring part of the living fabric of society.” The Pope, who said he has been following the events in Iraq, asked the ambassador to assure the Iraqi people "of my ongoing concern for the many victims of terrorism and violence."
"Your ancient culture has been described as the 'cradle of civilization' and has boasted the presence of Christians since the beginning of Christianity itself," said the Pope in English. "Indeed, it has been a fine example of the many ways in which the adherents of different religions can live in peace and harmony."
The Holy Father said that “the rule of law as an integral element of government,” is essential to protecting the dignity of every person. “Preserving this fundamental principle is basic for any modern society that truly seeks to safeguard and promote the common good,” he said.
“It is my hope,” said the Pope, “that the Iraqi people will continue to promote their long tradition of tolerance, always recognizing the right to freedom of worship and religious instruction.”
He noted that “once these fundamental rights are protected by ordinary legislation and become an enduring part of the living fabric of society, they will enable all citizens, regardless of religious belief or affiliation, to make their proper contribution to the building up of Iraq."
"The entire Catholic Church, and in a special way the Chaldean Christians present in your country since the time of the Apostles, is committed to assisting your people in constructing a more peaceful and stable nation," said the Holy Father.
"Iraq is currently in the throes of the difficult process of transition from a totalitarian regime to the formation of a democratic State in which the dignity of each person is respected and all citizens enjoy equal rights," noted the Pope.
"As you prepare your people to undertake the task of freely electing the men and women who will lead the Iraq of tomorrow,” he said, “I encourage the current government in its efforts to make certain that these elections are fair and transparent giving all eligible citizens an equal opportunity in this democratic right which they are encouraged to exercise."
The Holy Father, noting "the struggle to overcome the challenges brought about by poverty, unemployment and violence currently faced by Iraq,” said: "May your government work untiringly to settle disputes and conflicts through dialogue and negotiation, having recourse to military force only as a last resort."
"Accordingly," he concluded, "it is essential that the State, with the assistance of the international community, promote mutual understanding and tolerance among its various ethnic and religious groups" to "create an environment ... committed to justice and peace" and "capable of sustaining the necessary economic growth and development integral for the well-being of your citizens and the country itself."