After mentioning the "difficult hour of history, when the world finds itself once again hearing the clash of arms," John Paul II said: "thinking of the victims, the destruction, and the suffering caused by armed conflicts always causes great concern and pain." "It should be clear by now that war used as an instrument of resolution of conflicts between states was rejected, even before the Charter of the United Nations, by the conscience of the majority of humanity, except in the case of defense against an aggressor," the Pope stressed. "The vast contemporary movement in favor of peace -- which, according to Vatican Council II, is not reduced to a 'simple absence of war' -- demonstrated this conviction of men of every continent and culture," he added. In this connection, the Holy Father said that "the strength of different religions in sustaining the search for peace is a reason for comfort and hope." "In our view of faith, peace, even if it is the result of political accords and understanding among individuals and peoples, is a gift from God that we must constantly invoke with prayer and penance," he said. "Without a conversion of heart, there is no peace! Peace is only achieved through love!" "Right now we are all asked to work and pray so that war disappears from the horizon of humanity," he concluded.
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.