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Bishops call for prayer as Australian force is deployed

Archbishop John Bathersby, Vice-President of the Australian Catholic Bishops' Conference, yesterday asked Australians to pray for those Australian service personnel being sent to Afghanistan.

"No one welcomes armed conflict with its accompanying risk of death and suffering," he said. "Nevertheless, when a decision is made that Australian armed-service personnel are to be sent to a theatre of war, they and their loved ones should be pastorally supported and should go with our good wishes."

Archbishop Bathersby urged all Australians to join with the Holy Father who, since 11 September, has repeatedly asked the faithful to pray for peace.

He added: "No reasonable person ever wants war and the tragic consequence of war is often the suffering and death of the innocent, already beginning to take place in the present conflict."

Archbishop Bathersby quoted the call to the UN of Vatican permanent observer Archbishop Renato Martino, who insisted that those resopnsible thought be brought ot justice through due process that does not expose more innocent civilians to death and destruction.

"I call on all Catholics to pray for a swift, just and peaceful end to the military campaign," Archbishop Bathersby concluded. "In these troubled times let us also pray for wisdom for our leaders so that they will respond in a wise and principled way to the terrorism that threatens all of us".