Vatican appeals for former Iraqi leader's life

October 27, 2010

VATICAN CITY (RNS) The Vatican on Tuesday (Oct. 26) called for
former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz to be spared the death
penalty, and suggested it might intervene diplomatically on his behalf.

"The position of the Catholic Church on the death penalty is known,"
said the Rev. Federico Lombardi, director of the Holy See Press Office.
"It is therefore truly hoped that the sentence against Tariq Aziz will
not be carried out, precisely in order to favor reconciliation and the
reconstruction of peace and justice in Iraq after the great sufferings
undergone there."

An Iraqi court on Tuesday condemned Aziz, 74, to death by hanging
for his role in persecuting Shiite opposition parties opposed to the
regime of Saddam Hussein.

Aziz, a Catholic, made a high-profile visit to the Vatican in 1998,
seeking the support of Pope John Paul II in an effort to end United
Nations sanctions against Iraq. He met again with John Paul in 2003, on
the eve of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, which the Vatican strenuously

Lombardi raised the possibility of a "humanitarian intervention" on
Aziz's behalf, noting that in such cases the "Holy See usually works not
in a public way but through the diplomatic channels at its disposal."