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Christmas messages call for peace

Iraq weapons inspectors continued their work as religious leaders preached peace
Iraq weapons inspectors continued their work as religious leaders preached peace

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start quoteOne can win battles, but war cannot be won. In war both sides are losers.end quote
-- Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter

LONDON, England -- Religious leaders have a Christmas message for world leaders: Work for peace rather than war in Iraq.

From Germany, which is politically opposed to war, to Britain, which is the strongest U.S. ally in Europe, religious leaders agreed that all efforts should be for peace.

In the Vatican, Pope John Paul II reiterated the message in his Christmas Day address. (Full story)

The Archbishop of York, Dr. David Hope -- the highest-ranking Church of England leader to speak publicly on Christmas Day -- called for renewed efforts against war but warned that military action might be necessary as a last resort.

Hope said military intervention should only take place in the most extreme circumstances and with the support of the United Nations.

He warned mistakes in war were inevitable and would result in suffering and death for innocent people.

Pope John Paul II urged the world to avoid war in the Middle East.

Without naming countries, the pope said peace was urgently needed "in the Middle East, to extinguish the ominous smouldering of a conflict which, with the joint efforts of all, can be avoided."

And the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales warned not to assume war in Iraq was inevitable.

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, the Archbishop of Westminster, said: "Let us pray today that each one of us, particularly those involved in international diplomacy and politics, will maintain our permanent commitment to building and maintaining peace in our world."

The Archbishop of Munich, Cardinal Friedrich Wetter, warned against seeing war as a simple case of winners and losers.

"One can win battles, but war cannot be won," he said. "In war both sides are losers."

He was joined by Protestants such as the Rev. Manfred Kock, chairman of the Evangelical Church Council, who said in an interview that "the way of humanity must be a way of peace."

In Iraq, the small Christian community marked Christmas Day in a quiet mood with little celebration, Reuters reported.

Anglican priest Ikram Mahni, at Baghdad's Anglican church, told Reuters: "We want to live in peace and these things spoil our lives and take away the joy of Christmas.

"We pray to the Lord to halt this war and let us live in peace together, Christians and Muslims, in Iraq."

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