November 14, 1997
Patriarch Raphael I. Bidawid
Patriarch of Babylon of the Chaldeans
Inter-ritual Conference of the Bishops of Iraq
P. O. Box 6112
As the annual meeting of the Catholic Bishops of the United States comes to a conclusion, I want to convey to you our continued solidarity and prayers at a time of great suffering for you and your people. We hear the cries of the millions of innocent men, women and children who are suffering as a result of the actions of the Iraqi government and the human costs of eight years of sweeping and comprehensive United Nations sanctions.
In the coming days, we will explore ways that Catholic Church agencies in the United States might be of further help in alleviating in some way the critical humanitarian needs in Iraq. In addition, our bishops' International Policy Committee will continue to monitor and advocate for peace and for the needs of the Church and people of Iraq. This committee will consider additional steps that might be taken with our government during its next meeting in January.
In this message of solidarity we do not focus on the political and policy aspects of the current crisis, but its human consequences for you and the people you serve and others in the Middle East. Since 1991, we have frequently addressed our own government regarding the moral implications of policy toward Iraq, raising two fundamental ethical concerns. First, the Iraqi government has a clear moral responsibility to end its threats to peace and to abandon efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. The government of Iraq must accept the legitimate role of the United Nations in these areas. Second, as the international community seeks to hold the Iraqi government accountable, it must not hold the Iraqi population hostage or harm innocent people.
These sweeping sanctions should not destroy the lives and health of people who bear no responsibility for the unacceptable acts of their rulers. We will continue to advocate that they be reviewed, reshaped and narrowed to achieve their legitimate objectives of ending threats to peace and the continuing efforts of the Iraqi government to create weapons of mass destruction without creating grievous harm to the ordinary people of Iraq. We have raised these issues as matters of moral principle, but also as acts of solidarity with the suffering people of your country and the region.
We will hold the suffering of your people in our hearts and in our prayers. As pastors, we assure you,your brother bishops and your people of our support, solidarity and prayers in these difficult days. Fraternally yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Anthony M. Pilla
Bishop of Cleveland