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Catholic bishops join lobby to PM for Iraq attack re-think

Australian Catholic Bishops Conference President Archbishop Francis Carroll has joined with other Canberra church leader in an expression of 'grave concern' at the possibility of a US led attack on Iraq and Australia's involvement in such a conflict.

He signed an open letter to the Prime Minister yesterday in his capacity as Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn. Archbishop Carroll was joined by auxiliary Bishop Pat Power and eight other religious leaders from the ACT.

The letter expressed the leaders' alarm that the lives of "hundreds and perhaps thousands of innocent Iraqi citizens" will be put at risk if the mooted attack takes place.

Prime Minister John Howard has indicated he would fully support US actions in Iraq. Other US allies have expressed serious reservations about the possible attacks.

"It is all too easy for so-called "civilized" countries to devalue the lives of ordinary people in poorer countries," the open letter said. "Clearly, the United States and its allies are concerned about the build-up of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, but we urge you to encourage the US and its allies to continue with diplomatic efforts to reach a resolution of the problem."

A similar letter from British religious leaders, organised by the Catholic peace organisation Pax Christi, was delivered earlier this week to Prime Minister Tony Blair in London.

"We are deeply concerned that the United States' leadership is too easily marching towards a war course and that Australia is seemingly giving its unquestioning support to such action," the Canberra church leaders told the PM. "We urge you to listen carefully to those voices which would seek a peaceful resolution to the difficult problems which surround Iraq."

The letter was also signed by leaders from the Anglican, Uniting, Presbyterian, Baptist, Assemblies of God, Lutheran and Quaker denominations.

Churches challenge Blair on war plans (SMH/Guardian)

Open Letter

8 Aug 2002