September 30, 2004


The Vatican Deploys its Divisions in Iraq – Under the Banner of NATO: An interview with Cardinal Sodano and an editorial in "Avvenire" invoke greater military support for Allawi's government and for the emerging Iraqi democracy, through a heavy deployment of troops from the Atlantic Alliance (Sandro Magister, 9/30/04, Chiesa)

The pope and the leaders of the Roman Church did not say it themselves, but they conveyed an unmistakable message. They are strongly in favor of a massive NATO commitment in Iraq, to support the government of Iyad Allawi and to guarantee free elections.

Speaking on their behalf, on the front page of its Sunday, September 26 edition, was the newspaper "Avvenire," which is headed by the Italian bishops' conference and by the organization's president, the pope's cardinal vicar, Camillo Ruini.

In an editorial by the newspaper's leading expert on international policy, Vittorio E. Parsi, a professor at the Catholic University of Milan, "Avvenire" reminded Europe and the West of its "duty" to assure free elections in Iraq, by reinforcing their military presence in the country through "the only body with the necessary resources: NATO."

An editorial so strongly exhortatory, printed on a Sunday on the front page of the bishops' newspaper, cannot be the result of chance. It is born from a decision made at the highest levels of the Church.

That such a decision was brewing could be guessed from a growing number of indications during the days immediately beforehand.

The first indication came on September 20. Cardinal Ruini spoke to the permanent council of the Italian bishops' conference, and repeated the duty of the Christian West to "oppose organized terror with the greatest energy and determination, without giving the slightest impression of considering their blackmail and their impositions," and at the same time, to transform into "our principal allies" the elements of the Muslim world that desire liberty and democracy.

Ruini is known to have been one of the protagonists of the apparent turnaround in Vatican policy on Iraq, in the fall of 2003: from the condemnation and rejection of war to determined support for the presence of western "peacekeeping" troops in the country.

The second indication came on Tuesday, September 21. An appeal was made in the newspaper "Il Foglio" for the Italian government to become a promoter within NATO and the European Union of a massive deployment of the troops of the Atlantic Alliance, "for the time necessary to secure the right of the Iraqis to vote and to select for the first time their parliament, their constitution, and their government."

The appeal was signed by Marta Dassù, the director of the magazine of the Aspen Institute in Italy; Giuliano Ferrara, the director of "Il Foglio"; Piero Ostellino, the former director of "Corriere della Sera," the leading Italian daily; and Vittorio E. Parsi, for "Avvenire." This last name is the most intriguing. Observers of Vatican affairs wondered to what extent, in taking this step, he was reflecting the orientation of pontifical diplomacy.

And the third indication gives an initial response to the question. On Wednesday, September 22, the New York correspondent of the newspaper "La Stampa," Paolo Mastrolilli, published an interview with the Vatican secretary of state, Cardinal Angelo Sodano.

Sodano was in New York at the time for an international conference on world hunger, as a guest of the Vatican observer at the United Nations, Archbishop Celestino Migliore. In the interview, he expressed admiration for the United States and biting criticism of an excessively anti-American and secularist Europe, and also against the "wearing down" of the UN.

He was silent on the theory of preventive war. But he asked that the UN Charter recognize the right to intervene militarily in countries that trample upon human rights.

The opposition of the Vatican and the U.N. to the humanitarian intervention in Iraq damaged the moral credibility of both, but they seem to have recognized that now.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 30, 2004 3:20 PM

What good is more infantry supposed to do?

Posted by: Harry Eagar at September 30, 2004 3:55 PM

Kerry and the Vatican, a matched pair of flip-flopping flounders.

Posted by: Jeff Guinn at September 30, 2004 8:57 PM

If the Vatican is taking this position, the only reason is that they are seeing a hemorrhaging in their funding from American Catholics, disgusted at the Curia's support for Saddam and its coverup of despicable crimes by its clergy in the States.

Anyone who thinks this apparent change of heart is about the Curia learning its lesson hasn't bothered to study Church history. It is always all about the Benjamins.

Posted by: Bart at October 1, 2004 6:45 AM


That's nonsense. No Catholic stopped giving the Church money because of its position on sovereignty.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2004 7:18 AM

One would hope that millions of American Catholics were outraged by Vatican support for Saddam and his genocidal regime, or else America has a far greater Fifth Column problem than we admit.

Posted by: Bart at October 1, 2004 8:46 AM


Why? Most Jews oppose the war too.

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2004 9:41 AM

Because the Iraq war is peripherally connected to the well-being of Israel, many of the opponents of the war blame 'the Jews' for our participation.

Many American Jews sadly still retain coping habits of their ancestors in Catholic and Orthodox Europe, which require them to reflexively oppose anything which might appear to be of benefit to Jews throughout the world. This is no different from the large numbers of Jews who will reflexively vote against a Jewish candidate for office because they are afraid that if he fouls up, it will lead to pogroms. Even the allegedly observant Sen. Joseph Lieberman felt a need to assist the Jew-hating terrorist-loving James Zogby to get an invite to the Clinton White House.

Posted by: Bart at October 1, 2004 2:47 PM

So Jews are a fifth column too?

Posted by: oj at October 1, 2004 2:59 PM