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Pope's envoy leads Iraqi Catholics in peace Mass

The Vatican's envoy to Iraq, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, has celebrated mass in Baghdad's cathedral, before a crowded congregation of anxious Iraqi Christians.

"The anguish under which you live doesn't cease to grow during these days," the Cardinal said at the two-hour Mass, which included ancient Chaldean rites. "We are gathered here to show the extent of how much peace and prayers are truly linked to each other."

The Cardinal gave a homily in French, which was translated into Aramaic, invoking the power of prayer and reassuring the heaving congregation that the world had not forgotten them. The parishioners consisted of the old, the sick, teenagers, families, the dwindling remnants of the diplomatic community, including the French Ambassador, and some human shields with badges identifying themselves. In one row, senior Baath Party officials sat solemnly listening to the Cardinal's words.

When he greeted the parishioners, saying "Salaam, Salaam" the Arabic for peace the church broke into thunderous applause.

The Cardinal, who arrived on a United Nations aircraft, will stay for several days in Baghdad. He has seen Taha Yassin Ramadan, the Iraqi Vice-President, and Tariq Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister. The date of a meeting with President Sadaam Hussein has not yet been set, but he said that his one-hour meeting with Mr Aziz and Mr Ramadan was "in itself a sign of the interest that we both have in listening to each other, in hearing each other, in listening to points of view which all converge on a just peace".

The Times (London)

Analysis: Vatican Sends Message To Saddam Hussein, Plans To Host Iraqi Foreign Ministers (transcript of interview with National Catholic Reporter's John Allen, US National Public Radio)
Iraq: Pope Joins Diplomatic Efforts As War Looms (Radio Free Europe)
Pope strives to avoid Muslim-Christian divide (AFP)
Iraq's Aziz Arrives in Rome for Meetings (AP)
Iraq's Aziz Defends Missiles at Italy Trip Start (Reuters)
Iraq: Aziz to Visit Sacred Convent in Assisi Saturday (Vidimus Dominum)
Cardinal Etchegaray meets Iraqi leaders (13/2/03)

14 Feb 2003