.- Pope John Paul II today expressed his wishes and prayers for the new Iraq on the occasion of the transfer of power to the interim government in a telegram sent to His Excellency Sheikh Ghazi Ajeel Al-Yawar, president of Iraq.
The Holy Father’s message reads as follows:
“On the happy occasion of the transfer of power to the Interim Government of the State of Iraq, the Holy Father sends his cordial greetings to Your Excellency and to the citizens of your country.
He prays that, as a new chapter begins in the life of the nation, the hopes of the Iraqi people for peace, freedom and prosperity will soon be fulfilled. His Holiness has always been deeply concerned for the suffering people of Iraq. He has expressed his solidarity with them on many occasions, not least through the constant presence among them of his personal representative, the Apostolic Nuncio.
Now, as you take up the office of President, the Catholic Church throughout the world offers you every support and encouragement in the task of building a new Iraq. Your noble country, once home to Abraham, is now home to a rich variety of faith traditions.
The Holy Father is confident that all religious groups within the country will be able to make their voices heard and to play their rightful part in forging a new society, committed to true freedom of conscience, to justice for all and to peaceful dialogue.
Assuring Your Excellency and all the Iraqi people of his prayers, the Holy Father invokes upon you the abundant blessings of Almighty God.”
Analogous messages were sent from Cardinal Sodano to His Excellency Mr Iyad Allawi, Prime Minister of Iraq, and from Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, secretary for Relations with States, to His Excellency Mr Hoshyar Zebari, Iraqi Minister for Foreign Affairs.