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Spokesman denies rumour of papal dash to UN in New York

An Italian newspaper reported on Tuesday a Vatican rumour that Pope John Paul II might fly to New York to make a dramatic appeal for peace before the United Nations.

But Joaquin Navarro-Valls, the Pope's press officer, denied the report.

"There is no plan for the Holy Father to visit the United Nations in the near future," he said. "The idea is not even under consideration."

But the paper's Vatican correspondent perpetuated the rumour by asserting that Navarro-Valls would be obliged to deny the rumours even if he knew different.

Observers suggest the Holy Father's centrality to peace efforts appear to have rejuvenated him.

Cardinal Pio Laghi, Vatican envoy to Washington, said on Monday: "In these days [the Pope] seems more lively, as if wishing to give us strength."

Meanwhile Laghi, a former papal nuncio to the United States who is described as a family friend of the Bushes, met the President behind closed doors on Wednesday afternoon

"I'm here on a peace mission and I don't consider war to be inevitable," Laghi told Italian daily La Stampa in an interview from Washington published Wednesday. "It is a very complicated task at this point, and we do realise the president is faced with very difficult decisions. But we have hope."

Laghi said he would deliver a message from the Pope, and that he will discuss the two things that are dearest to the Holy See: "avoiding a war and finding a peaceful solution to the problem of Iraq's disarmament."

London Independent/AP

Rumor Rejected: Pope Not Planning UN Appearance (Catholic World News)
Pope's Envoy Still Hopes to Dissuade Bush from War (Catholic World News)
Pope Discusses Iraq with Berlusconi (Zenit)
Attack without UN support would be a crime says archbishop (The Universe)
Pope's call echoed (The Age)
Pope steps up pressure for peace (BBC)
Pope takes a stick to a war in bad faith (Sydney Morning Herald)
Bush to meet with Vatican envoy (AP)

6 Mar 2003