March 20, 2003
My dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
As our country goes to war with Iraq, I offer heartfelt and fervent prayers for all our men and women in the armed forces who risk their lives in the service of our nation. I pray for their safety and well-being. My heart goes out to their families and loved ones who face such fear and anxiety at this time. Words are inadequate in trying to support and console them. I hope and pray that our faith and our Church community will be a source of solace for them. The words of the first psalm in today's liturgy especially come to mind "Blessed are they who hope in the Lord." I was touched by the picture on the front page of the New York Times of a Marine fervently praying his rosary. We should all turn to Mary the Queen of Peace at this time. Perhaps we could say the rosary daily for peace.
God is our ultimate hope. We put our soldiers and their families in a special way in God's care and in God's hands. We hope in the Lord even more deeply in these times.
We are also a people called to be in solidarity with all those who suffer as we hear again in the Gospel about the poor man Lazarus. We should do what we can to reach out to all who will suffer as a result of this war. To me, that means we have to remember in our prayers the long suffering people of Iraq who have endured so much under a brutal dictatorship.
I also hope and pray that our civil and military leaders will continue to be focused on doing everything humanly possible to avoid civilian casualties. The United States and its allies are at war with a regime that has shown, and I fear will continue to show. a disregard for the sanctity of human life. All the more reason, I believe, that our nation upholds our deepest values by our actions in the conduct of this war.
I worry about a climate of polarization that could be intensified by war. I hope and pray we will all show respect to our troops and to each other, and engage in a civil discourse marked by a common commitment to seeking truth and peace.
Let us ask for an outpouring of God's wisdom and patience, courage and compassion, faith and hope on all of us and on our beloved country. Our Holy Father has reminded us all as Catholic Christians that we are called to he "sentinels of peace." Let us take that call which is so rooted in the Gospel of Jesus Christ ever more seriously. And let us join with Him during this Lenten Season in this time of war in praying and fasting and living so that the trials and tragedy of war will soon he replaced by a just and lasting peace.