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16 April 2004 - 80p (Republic of Ireland ‰1.20)
Bishop: pull troops out of Iraq
The Coalition must end attacks and hand over Iraq to the UN, demands the Bishop of Lancaster. Freddy Gray reports
AC ATHOLICBISHOP has demanded that Britain and the United States withdraw their troops from Iraq. In a statement marking the first anniversary of the symbolic toppling of Saddam Hussein’s statue in Baghdad, Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue of Lancaster condemned the continuing turmoil in the country and said that Coalition forces must leave. In his Easter message to the people of the diocese, Bishop O’Donoghue described his “sadness and dismay” at the British and American “attacks” on the Iraqi people, and called for a prompt handover of Iraq to the control of United Nations forces. His announcement came as Coalition leaders considered deploying even more troops to the region. Gen John Abizaid, America’s top commander in Iraq, declared that the United States army needed 10,000 more troops on the ground as they struggled to quell the nationwide revolt by Shias loyal to the Moqtada al Sadr, a Muslim cleric, and the Sunni uprising in Fallujah, west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad. General Abizaid said that the 132,000 US troops already on the ground was an insufficient number to deal with the escalating troubles. The pleas by the bishop and Gen Abizaid came after the two bloodiest weeks in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime. At least 700 Iraqis and more than 70 Coalition soldiers were killed in the violence and dozens of western civilians taken hostage by insurgents. Bishop O’Donoghue did not reach the same conclusion as General Abizaid in his assessment of the situation in Iraq. Speak
Trouble ahead: the reflection in the sunglasses of a soldierin Iraq offers a glimpse of the turmoil afflicting Iraq a yearafterthe demise of Saddam Hussein
ing as a battle raged for Fallujah between insurgents and US Marines, the bishop told of his distress at reports of an American air strike on a mosque compound in the city. In an uncompromising foray into the political arena, Bishop O’Donoghue, an outspoken critic of the war on Iraq, said: “It is time for Britain and the United States to
disengage from the occupation of that country and attacks on its people. It is time for the United Nations to be effectively involved in providing security and developing an accountable and representative government as soon as possible.” He said:“I read with sadness and dismay that the occupation forces have made further attacks across the country in an
attempt to crush the uprising by Shia and Sunni Muslims. We do not know how many innocent people will lose their lives during this time. It is quite possible that the whole region might be engulfed. This week’s attack on a mosque is a further sign of escalation.” Bishop O’Donoghue also said he was disappointed by the failure of the British
and American governments to deliver on their promises. “One year ago I, along with millions round the world, including Pope John Paul, pleaded with the British and United States’governments not to invade Iraq,” he said. “If weapons of mass destruction were the issue, then the United Nations present in Iraq at that time should have been given time to disarm Iraq.
“But, against all the wishes of the international community, the United Nations and the Security Council, and in violation of international law, the United States and Britain launched an attack. We were told that the Iraqi people would welcome Britain and the United States as liberators. This has not happened. We were told weapons of mass destruction would be found. This has not happened. We were told that the capture of Saddam Hussein would bring a return to normalcy. This has not happened.” Bishop O’Donoghue was out of the country as The Catholic Herald went to press but John Joseet, the bishop’s refugee policy adviser, said Bishop O’Donoghue was “saddened, not so much angered” by the “heavy-handed” diplomacy of the American forces. Mr Joseet said Bishop O’Donoghue was deeply suspicious of the American “military hegemony” in Iraq, and argued that a United Nations force in Iraq should not be made up of troops from the United States army. He explained that when Bishop O’Donoghue lamented the death of “innocent people”, that included Coalition soldiers. “Soldiers are just the victims of their political masters,” he said. Mr Joseet argued that the Coalition was in contravention of the Geneva Convention, and supported the bishop’s demand that Iraq should be handed over to the UN. “If the Coalition forces cannot deliver security and guarantee some economic well-being — that is their duty as an occupying force under the Geneva Convention — then it is time for the United Nations to become fully involved,” said Mr Joseet. But Bishop Thomas Burns of the Forces said he was uncertain of the prudence of a military withdrawal at this juncture. “As we go the extra mile in attempting to restore and rebuild the country of Iraq, we should not abandon the Iraqi people before the job is done,” he said. “This means doing all in our power to establish a freely elected Iraqi government which can take control of its own affairs.” The subject of Iraq is likely to be on the table when the bishops of England and Wales hold their Low Week meeting next week.
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Rumours abound overfate of BBC cartoon that pokes fun at the Pope
T HE BBChas reportedly dropped its plans to show Popetown , the controversial cartoon series that mocks the Pope and the Vatican, following pressure from the Catholic Church. The claim was made in an article entitled “The BBC Axe falls on Catholic Cartoon” in The Sunday Times last weekend. The paper reported that the BBC had “declined to confirm” that the cartoon would be broadcast on BBC3 digital channel this year and that it would be quietly shelved. But the BBC has denied the news. On Monday, a spokesman for the corporation said that the report was “not true.” He insisted that the programme has not been delivered, and that there were no plans to cancel its broadcast.
He said: “As we told The Sunday Times , we are still awaiting the delivery of the completed programme, and once it is received it will be subjected to the same editorial processes that all programmes must go through.” The BBC has never altered its official line that the programme will be shown. It was originally intended to go out this spriing and the reason for the delay in showing the programme, according to the BBC, is apparently due to the complexities of animation production. However, rumours that the cartoon has been cancelled will not go away. In January this year, there were reports that the BBC was trying to weed out its perceived anti-Catholic bias following thousands of complaints and severe public criticism from Church leaders, notably Archbishop Vincent Nichols of
Birmingham. “There is a feeling that quite apart from the offence caused to Catholics, it just isn’t funny,” said a BBC source on the subject of Popetown . Few people have actually seen the programme. However, the programme makers have announced in a press release last summer that the Pope would be portrayed as “a childish 77-year-old whose every whim must be indulged”, and “the cardinals are sinister, corrupt and mysteriously wealthy”. If the programme has been cancelled, it would represent a triumph for the thousands of Catholics who have protested against the programme since it was announced in 2002. James Mawdsley, the human rights campaigner who spent 18 months incarcerated in Burma, inspired many angry Catholics with his refusal to pay the license fee, and his
willingness to go to prison again, unless the BBC stopped attacking his religion. He announced this week that there are more than 50 individuals who have joined him in refusing to pay the licence fee. Mr Mawdsley was pleased at the rumours of the cancellation, but advised Catholics not to get too excited. He said: “I think the BBC probably think it is sensible to drop Popetown , and they are looking for a face-saving way of doing so. But it would be wrong to drop our guard, the rumours aren’t worth anything.” Bishop Kieran Conry of Arundel and Brighton was thrilled at the prospect of Popetown being abandoned. He said: “This is a very good message for Christians this Easter. It demonstrates respect for religious feeling, [which] it seemed was being treated casually.”
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Defiant Kerry receives Easter Holy Communion
T HEMAN who hopes to become the first Catholic President of the United States since John F Kennedy has received Holy Communion at Easter in defiance of bishops who say he should first renounce his public support for abortion.
‘‘LLoovvee tthhyy nneeiigghhbboouurr.. EEvveenn iiff hhee iiss aa tteerrrroorriisstt,,’’ ssaayyss PPrreellaattee ooff OOppuuss DDeeii
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