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 CNS Story:

IRAQ-WARDUNI Mar-19-2007 (320 words) xxxi

Iraqi bishop: Four years of war brought increased spiral of cruelty

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Four years of war have brought an increasing spiral of cruelty and killing to Iraq, and left the country in a state of chaos, said Chaldean Auxiliary Bishop Shlemon Warduni of Baghdad, Iraq.

The war also has prompted a massive flight of Catholics and others from the country, leaving behind a shrinking Catholic minority, he said.

Bishop Warduni made the comments to Vatican Radio March 19, the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led bombing and invasion of Iraq.

"Before the conflict broke out, I said that God does not want war in Iraq. Even then one could see that the consequences would be terrible," the bishop said.

"And in fact, the cruelty and the killing have increased from day to day. Children, youths, the old, the sick, we are all suffering, because the world is not thinking of what's good for the Iraqi people," he said.

"Everyone is thinking of their own interests and so the Iraqis have been forgotten. Terrorism is increasing, and with it the number of orphans and widows," he said.

Asked about estimates that more than 60,000 people have died in the conflict, Bishop Warduni said the number could be much higher. No one knows the real number, he said.

"So often we go out of our homes uncertain whether we'll return safe and sound. The kidnappings, the kamikazes, the car bombs, the missiles: You cannot eat calmly, study calmly or pray calmly," he said.

"So many people are afraid to come to church, and so many children are afraid to go to school," he said.

With Iraq's infrastructure nonexistent and electricity outages that last most of the day, everyone who can leave the country does so, he said.

The church tries to encourage those who remain, asking them to pray.

"Only the Lord can do something for Iraq," the bishop said.

END


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