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WCC leader hopes after Saddam’s death, peace will prevail in Iraq

The general secretary of the World Council of Churches’ has asked God to grant Iraq "the mercy, justice and compassion that it has long been denied" and for an end to the fear and death that marked Saddam Hussein’s rule "and that continue now".

"We pray that those who hold power in Iraq now and in the future will create a new heritage of government for its people," said the Rev. Samuel Kobia after the execution of the former Iraqi dictator in Baghdad on 30 December. "May Iraq’s leaders pursue reconciliation and mutual respect among all its communities."

While holding a leader responsible for his crimes is significant, the WCC leader said, "each taking of a person’s life is a part of a larger tragedy and nowhere is this more apparent than in a land of daily killings". The WCC is opposed to the death penalty.

A Vatican spokesperson had called the execution of the former Iraqi dictator as "tragic" and said it could escalate the fighting in Iraq. "The killing of the guilty is not the way to reconstruct justice and reconcile society," the Rev. Federico Lombardi said in a statement. "There is rather the risk that it might fuel the spirit of vengeance and sow the seeds of new violence." He noted: "A capital punishment is always tragic news, a reason for sadness, even if it deals with a person who was guilty of grave crimes."

Days before the execution, Cardinal Renato Martino, the top Vatican cleric dealing with justice issues and a former envoy to the United Nations, said Saddam’s execution would punish "a crime with another crime". He had expressed hope that the sentence would not be carried out.

Cardinal Martino was quoted in an interview with the Rome daily newspaper, La Republica, and reiterated the Roman Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty, saying that life must be safeguarded from its beginning to its natural end.

(c) Ecumenical News International