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March 20, 2003

CARDINAL TO CELEBRATE MASS FOR PEACE
STATEMENT REGARDING WAR IN IRAQ
from Anthony Cardinal Bevilacqua
Archbishop of Philadelphia

It is with grave distress that I received the news that the United States is at war with Iraq. This marks a very difficult and painful time for the United States, its allies and the people of Iraq; indeed, for the people of the entire world. My immediate thoughts and prayers go to innocent civilians who may find themselves in danger. The conditions which result from war cannot be overstated. Innocent people suffer and suffer gravely. Now is a time for prayer and a more intense commitment to prayer. So much is at stake when countries are at war.

I pray for a speedy end to the war. In a special way, I pray for the men and women unselfishly serving this nation with honor and steadfast spirit. May God guard them against evil, protect them from harm, and give them spiritual courage. I also offer prayers for their families who anxiously await messages from their loved ones. May God comfort these families during this time of great trial. Also, I pray for President George W. Bush and all our leaders, political and military, who in the midst of war must still defend human rights and protect innocent civilians. May God guide them all through this hour of crisis so that a peaceful and just settlement can be achieved in this international conflict.

This is a most unsettling time in our history. With the initiation of war, the future may seem dark and unclear. But we turn to God, who gives us great hope. During this time of strife we plead with our Heavenly Father to bless and protect the United States of America, its people and all people touched by this violence. It is my fervent prayer during this time that all world leaders will recognize what our Holy Father Pope John Paul II has said, "War is always a defeat for humanity." We must never tire in the cause for peace.

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Editor's Note: The Cardinal has asked all Catholic parishes of the five-county Archdiocese to provide opportunities for people to gather in prayer for peace. The Cardinal will celebrate a Mass for Peace at the Cathedral Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul. A media advisory will be issued shortly with details which are still in development.

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Catherine L. Rossi
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