25 March 2003
Peace be with you!
As our preoccupied Nation struggles through the volcanic sights and sounds of war, portrayed live and graphically, a universal prayer is raised for a quick end to hostilities, for the welfare of our troops and for the innocent Iraqi men, women and children whose lives are threatened.
Long after the hostilities cease the debate likely will continue as to the moral justification for the armed force recently initiated by the United States and its allies. It is to be hoped that all factors which have led to our intervention will eventually be made public and that the full picture of the Iraqi regime"s weaponry and brutality will shed helpful light upon our President"s decision.
Given the complexity of factors involved, many of which understandably remain confidential, it is altogether appropriate for members of our armed forces to presume the integrity of our leadership and its judgments and therefore to carry out their military duties in good conscience. Meanwhile, we encourage our military leadership in its scrupulous efforts to avoid innocent civilian casualties and to use no more force than necessary to attain stated goals. Now, more than ever, our prayers are with our President and all those associated with him in decision-making.
The admiration which the members of our military enjoy today has rarely been higher, and rightly so. It is regrettable that it takes a situation such as this to make so manifest the pride in and esteem for our armed forces on the part of our countrymen. The professional values which guide our military are of the highest quality. The personal capacity and willingness to sacrifice self for the good of neighbor permeate our military community, offering unique and welcome witness to our American culture. What respect and gratitude they deserve!
Sharing in that sacrifice and worthy of equal praise are the family members left behind, parents, spouses and children most especially. They deserve special understanding support as they agonize daily over the safety of their loved ones. I know our parish and school programs, both civilian and military, are taking those thoughtful steps to offer family members every assistance.
To you, our Catholic chaplains, priests at home and on deployment, I express the sincerest appreciation of all our people. Whether ministering to troops in combat or in support, or to anxious families, your priesthood has never been more important or appreciated than it is now. During these days of Lent especially, you offer all the members of our extensive Archdiocese the opportunity to share in the sufferings of Christ - indeed, to complete what is lacking in His sufferings. You do so through your sacramental ministry, your preaching and teaching, and most effectively through the witness of your priestly lives, ever in the midst of your people on a most challenging journey. I must also extend deep thanks to all those diocesan bishops and religious superiors who have released you for this great ministry.
An important request to our priests serving in our Veteran Administration Medical Centers across our Country. Brave men and women of past armed conflicts are your daily pastoral concern, some of them still bearing physical or psychological pain from the experience of war. As members of our Archdiocese, they are still joined to our military family, never more effectively so than when they, too, join their sufferings to Christ"s for the cause of peace and for their present day comrades in arms. Our veterans and all who serve them are a spiritual powerhouse in support of our Nation and our armed forces.
And a final request. Let us focus all our efforts and prayers through Him, with Him and in Him in our daily Eucharistic celebration. Is it not the most frequent request from our people that we pray for them? There is no prayer more effective, when offered daily and with due reverence on behalf of our people, than the one we pray at the altar. A word of thanks as well to our many Catholic congregations who have initiated hours of Eucharistic adoration for the cause of peace, for our troops in danger and for the cause of vocations.
On this Feast of Our Lady"s Annunciation when we celebrate the Incarnation of the Son of God, the Word becoming Flesh, may Mary share with us the profound peace she experienced - and in the midst of stressful days - as she welcomed Christ into her womb and into our world.
In the Lord,