To His Holiness, Pope Benedict XVI on his arrival to the United States

Most Holy Father:

In your own words, “today we should be asking ourselves if it is still licit to admit the very existence of a ‘just war’.” Yet, during your upcoming visit to the United States, you are planning to meet with President George W. Bush, whose empty justifications for the violence in Iraq lead to increasing numbers of dead, injured and displaced people. Iraqi civilians still endure the “continual slaughter” which you described in your 2007 Easter Sunday address.

Shortly before the U.S. invaded Iraq, you rightly declared that “there were not sufficient reasons to unleash a war.” You’ve also called attention to the terrible new technologies which cause indiscriminate destruction. Five years later, how much more reason you have to call for an immediate end to this war, and to refuse to meet with the President of the United States until that is accomplished. [Note: The pope and president will meet April 16, 2008 at the White House.]

If you kneel in grief and outrage before the cross of the tortured Christ, can you offer your blessing to a head of government who excuses the most terrible abuses of human minds and bodies as “legal?”

If meet with him you must, then meet as a prophet should – issuing a warning and an invitation to repentance. Courtesy cannot be used as an evasion of our biblical faith. Ezekiel was repeatedly reminded of his responsibility to admonish those doing evil if he desired to escape sharing in the responsibility for their sins. Shouldn’t any of us who recognize the horror of what is happening in Iraq be condemned if we are silent?

You are scheduled to be in Washington, D.C. on the anniversary of your birth. We feel sure that you will be thinking of the countless children of Iraq who never reached their fifth birthday. In 2005 alone, 122,000 Iraqi children under age five died. There are many, both within the Church and outside of it, who long for your voice to speak for those innocent dead and – face to face with those whose policies denied all respect for their lives – demand that the killing stop.

We are, in faithful hope,

This letter has been signed by national and local leaders of faith-based peace and justice movements. Kathy Boylan of the Dorothy Day Catholic Worker in Washington DC initiated the letter.

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