MILITARY intervention against Iraq would be a crime against peace demanding vengeance before God, the head of the Vatican's Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has said.
"War is a crime against peace which cries for vengeance before God," said Archbishop Renato Raffaele Martino, speaking on Vatican Radio.
He stressed the deeply unjust and immoral nature of war, saying it was condemned by God because civilians were the worst sufferers.
Martino, formerly Vatican permanent representative to the UnitedNations, strongly denounced the determination of the United States and its allies to disarm Iraq by force.
"Do not reply with a stone to the child who asks for bread," he said.
"They are preparing to reply with thousands of bombs to a people that has been asking for bread for the last 12 years."
Stressing the Roman Catholic church would continue to insist on the need and the urgency of peace, he said: "As always, it will be the Good Samaritan who will bind the wounds of a wounded and weakened people."
Pope John Paul II, one of the most prominent opponents of war on Iraq, urged UN Security Council members yesterday to continue negotiations on the disarmament of Iraq and avert a looming military conflict.
"I want to remind UN members and particularly those who make up the Security Council that the use of force is the last resort after having exhausted all peaceful solutions, as stipulated by the UN charter," the Pope told tens of thousands of worshippers gathered in St Peter's Square.
"I lived through World War II and I survived the Second World War. For this reason, I have the duty to say 'Never again war'.
"We know that it is impossible to say peace at any price, but we all know how important our responsibility is."
© The Australian, March 18, 2003