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Flak for Vatican cardinal over Saddam dignity call

Respected US right-wing Catholic commentator Michael Novak has savaged Cardinal Renato Martino (pictured), prefect of the Pontifical Commission for Justice and Peace, for defending the right of the captured Saddam Hussein to dignified treatment at the hands of his American captors.

Cardinal Martino said he felt compassion for Saddam when he saw his dignity violated by the television images that followed the capture of the former Iraqi president by US forces at the weekend. The cardinal has also made it clear that Hussein should be tried in an "appropriate" jurisdiction and should not be subject to the death penalty.

Writing in the National Review Online, Novak referred to the cardinal's "irascible anti-Americanism", describing Martino's appointment as "unfortunate", and Martino himself as an unceasing "embarrassment to his superiors".

Novak suggested that while the Holy Father and other Vatican officials have been equivocal in their anti-Americanism, the 'imprudent' Martino "has made clear on many occasions how bitterly he feels toward the United States on many fronts". He said the "immense relief experienced by the Catholic community in Iraq since the fall of Saddam" has not gone unappreciated at the Vatican.

He said: "He does not seem to be aware of how oddly his behaviour comports with the far more nuanced and modulated views of those around him with greater authority than his."

Meanwhile Columnist Miranda Devine in today's Sydney Morning Herald argues that Saddam received dignified treatment at the hands of his captors.

"In fact, the pictures Martino would have spared us showed the unkempt ex-dictator welcoming the expert attentions of his latex-gloved US doctor," she said.

Back in Rome, the St. Egidio community has called upon world leaders to exclude the death penalty as an option in the trial of Saddam Hussein.

The lay Catholic community, which has been involved in negotiations leading to the settlement of several major international disputes, issued a 16 December statement calling for an "equitable process for Saddam Hussein and all the prisoners of war in Iraq."

The group said that this process should follow the principles set forth for the international penal tribunal, which included a renunciation of the death penalty.

The St Egidio community, founded in Rome in 1968 by Andrea Ricciardi, now numbers 40,000 members, spread across 60 different countries. The group is dedicated to promotion of human rights, and makes a special effort to encourage dialogue as a means of resolving disputes.

Martino? There he goes again! (National Review Online 17/12/03)
Spare us the pity for Iraq's ex-tyrant (Sydney Morning Herald 18/12/03)
St. Egidio Community asks world leaders to renounce death penalty for Saddam (Catholic World News/EWTN 16/12/03)

Saddam Should Be Tried "in Appropriate Jurisdiction," Says Vatican (Zenit 16/12/03)
Iraqi archbishop discloses persecution under Saddam (AsiaNews 17/12/03)
No death penalty for Saddam, Vatican official pleads (Catholic World News 16/12/03)
Pity at the Vatican for a Captive (New York Times 17/12/03)
I feel sorry for Saddam, says Pope's aide (The Guardian 17/12/03)

18 Dec 2003