Nearly two years after conducting a vigorous international campaign against military intervention in Iraq, the Vatican reversed itself.
The Telegraph, Britain’s leading conservative newspaper, reported Oct. 10 that Vatican officials now support a multinational military presence led by NATO to restore order and protect Iraq’s nascent democracy.
The article’s headline is telling: “Vatican buries the hatchet with Blair and Bush over Iraq.” Before the Anglo-American invasion, Pope John Paul II passionately opposed President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who favored military force to make Saddam Hussein comply with the United Nations’ demand for disarmament.
But as an anonymous Vatican advistor told the Telegraph, “there is a feeling that there really is no going back.”
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, the Vatican’s secretary of state, described the reversal more colorfully.
“The child has been born,” Sodano told the Italian daily La Stampa on Sept. 22. “It may be illegitimate but it’s here, and it must be reared and educated.”
Four days later, an editorial in the newspaper of the Italian bishops” conference, Avvenire, written by Vittorio Parsi, a professor at the Catholic University of Milan and the newspaper’s foreign policy expert, bluntly outlined Vatican policy:
What (the terrorists) want is, in fact, not “Iraq for the Iraqis,” but “Iraq for the assassins.” Thus all of Iraq will become a colossal common area for fundamentalist terrorism, for the brigands of Ba’ath, and for the most extremist Shiite mullahs. The international community and the West, which objectively holds within this community the greatest share of power, culture, and responsibility, have the duty of blocking the realization of this plan. The Atlantic Alliance, with its attitudes and counterbalances, is the multilateral institution that can assume the onus of protecting the right of the Iraqis to express their political will by voting.
Rome’s stance goes beyond a resigned acceptance of uncomfortable facts or the determination to influence the issue. It reflects a gradual yet increased awareness — and fear — of jihadism’s growing influence.
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