On Sunday, in the traditional Urbi et Orbi (“the City and the World”) message, Pope Benedict, in reciting a litany of trouble spots in the world, made mention of Iraq. The entirety of his remark was: “… nothing positive comes from Iraq, torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.”
Some have taken that to be criticism of the US-led efforts in that
country and a blindness to the accomplishments of both dedicated Americans and Iraqis in bringing peace.
I think, however, that Father Neuhaus understood the Pope more accurately.
The most plausible interpretation of those words is that he sees no improvement in the situation for the people of Iraq. He says the country is “torn apart by continual slaughter as the civil population flees.” He does not say who is responsible for the continual slaughter, the various factions in Iraq or the coalition forces trying to bring the slaughter to an end. His concern for the fleeing civil population is undoubtedly a reference to the rapidly declining Christian population there. The plight of Christians in the Middle East comes in for more extended treatment in his Easter Sunday address. I hope he is wrong about there being nothing positive in what is happening in Iraq. I am confident that he hopes he is wrong. It is inconceivable that he hopes there will be no positive developments in the months ahead.
On the other hand, most war critics and war supporters have jumped on the remarks to advance their particular agenda, piling meaning into the words that isn’t necessarily there. Such is the result when ideology trumps objective journalistic reporting and analysis.
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