.- Pope John Paul II met with Prime Minister Iyad Allawi this morning and encouraged him and the Iraqi people in their efforts to rebuild their country along democratic principles and assured them of his “continued closeness to the Iraqi people, so sorely tried by the tragic sufferings of recent years.”
“I pray for all the victims of terrorism and wanton violence, for their families, and for all those who generously work for the reconstruction of your country,” said the Pope.
The Holy Father also expressed his “wish to encourage the efforts made by the Iraqi people to establish democratic institutions which will be truly representative and committed to defending the rights of all, in complete respect for the ethnic and religious diversity which has always been a source of enrichment for your country.”
The Pope said he was “confident that the Christian community, present in Iraq from apostolic times, will make its own contribution to the growth of democracy and the building of a future of peace in the region.”
“Upon you and your associates, and upon all the beloved people of Iraq, I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God” said the Pope at the end of the meeting, imparting his Apostolic blessing.
Prime Minister Allawi then met with Cardinal angelo Sodano, Vatican secretary of state, and Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo to discuss “various aspects of the situation in Iraq…in detail, along with prospects for peace and reconciliation that can determine the healing of the deep wounds of the past, and consequential prospects for peace in the region,” according to Joaquin Navarro-Valls, director of the Holy See Press Office.
“Attention was also given to the need to ensure full religious freedom and to the contribution that the Christian community can offer for the moral and material reconstruction of the country,” said Navarro-Valls.
“The Prime Minister,” said Navarro-Valls, “deplored the attacks suffered by several Christian churches, ensuring, on behalf of the Government, efforts to restore them.”