Pope John Paul II is appealing for all avenues to be pursued in an effort to find a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis. The pontiff says war would bring dire consequences for everyone.
The pope has taken every opportunity to call for world leaders to avoid a conflict. He has made clear he opposes a pre-emptive war in Iraq, and favors dialogue to resolve the crisis.
Addressing pilgrims in Saint Peter's Square from his study window Sunday, the pope again urged more efforts to achieve Iraq's disarmament, without resorting to military intervention.
He told his audience that "peace is a gift of God, to be invoked with humble and insistent faith."
The pope said war always brings "sorrow and grave consequences" for all, and must be avoided at all costs.
He invited Catholics to fast in the name of peace on Ash Wednesday this week, since "peace is at present put in doubt by the growing threats of war."
The pontiff is sending a personal envoy to Washington with a message for U.S. President George W. Bush about the threatened war against Iraq.
Cardinal Pio Laghi, a retired Vatican diplomat and former Papal Nuncio in the United States, will deliver the pope's message to Mr. Bush.
The pope and his close cardinal advisers at the Vatican have been meeting with leading world figures in recent weeks, urging them to do everything to avert a war.
Recent papal audiences have been with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. The pope has also met recently with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.