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Cardinal says Saddam treated like a cow

Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said he felt compassion for Saddam and that the world should have been spared the images of his medical examination after his capture.

Cardinal Martino (pictured) said Saddam Hussein should face trial for his crimes, but stressed the Vatican's opposition to the death penalty and criticised the US military for portraying him "like a cow" having his teeth checked.

The cardinal said he is pleased with the capture and he hopes it will bring peace and democracy to Iraq, but he stressed it's not the answer to the problems of Iraq or the Middle East.

And in an indication of the Vatican's still-strong opposition to the US-led war, he said: "It seems illusory to hope that it will repair the drama and damage of the defeat against humanity which war always is."

Martino said the Vatican hoped Saddam would face trial in an "appropriate" venue. When asked about reports that Saddam could face the death penalty, Martino stressed the Vatican's long-standing opposition to capital punishment, as well as the fact that no UN-backed court has the death penalty.

Martino was speaking at a news conference to launch Pope John Paul II's annual message for the World Day of Peace, which the church celebrates on New Year's Day.

Cardinal Backs Trial for Saddam Hussein (Associated Press/ 16/12/03)

Vatican slams handling of Saddam (BBC 16/12/03)
Church leaders see long road for Iraq even after Saddam's capture (Catholic News Service 15/12/03)
No death penalty for Saddam, Vatican official pleads (Catholic World News 16/12/03)
Pope Peace Message Takes Swipe at U.S. Over Iraq (Wired/Reuters 16/12/03)
Message of his holiness Pope John Paul II for the celebration of the World Day of Peace - 1/1/04 - An ever timely commitment: Teaching peace
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

17 Dec 2003