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Canberra bishop confronts PM on Iraq war

Prime Minister John Howard and Canberra auxiliary bishop Pat Power had a heated public exchange yesterday after Bishop Power urged him not to go to war with Iraq.

Howard passionately told Power that he too wanted peace and to avoid a conflict in the Middle East if at all possible.

The confrontation occurred after an ecumenical church service in Canberra to mark the beginning of Federal Parliament's year.

Mr Howard, Governor-General Peter Hollingworth and Opposition Leader Simon Crean evoked words of peace and tolerance in readings from the Bible during the service.

Bishop Power, who later led a churches' protest for peace outside Parliament, downplayed the clash.

"I just expressed my concern for the fact that Australia seems to be heading towards war with Iraq," he said after the protest. "I thought I've got to be man enough to say to his face what we're saying by our presence here today.

"And he reacted very passionately . . . to say that he too has a great hatred for war and has always had a hatred for war and there's no group of people who have a monopoly on that position, and I certainly respect that."

Bishop Power said Mr Howard was passionate and emotional in defending the Government's case, but fell short of open anger.

"I think he's probably feeling very much the burden of responsibility at the moment, and I certainly didn't take it as a personal affront to me by any means and I hope he didn't take what I said personally, although I suspect he did a little bit," Bishop Power said.

Parliament's front lawns were the setting for several protests as debate began about Australia's involvement in military action in the Persian Gulf.


Howard ambushed at church with sermons on Iraq (The Age)
[NZ] Church leaders rally against war (Waikato Times)
Politicians debate the war question (The Age)
Catholic Bishop to speak against Iraq commitment (ABC)
Howard makes case for war (The Australian)
Prime Minister John Howard: Statement on Iraq
Simon Crean: Statement on Iraq
War not an option yet: Dr Pell (Catholic Weekly)
George Pell: The gospel for a just war (The Australian 4/2/03)
Australian churches remain firm on hopes for non-military solution on Iraq (National Council of Churches in Australia)
India's Bishops Oppose War on Iraq (Catholic World News)
Cardinal [Sin, Philippines] Appeals To Arroyo Not To Support 'Unjust' War On Iraq (UCA News)
U.S. cardinal [Stafford] criticizes push for war, says evidence inconclusive (Catholic World News)
Cardinal Stafford Criticizes U.S. Plan for Pre-emptive Attack on Iraq (Zenit)

5 Feb 2003