National Catholic Register


For Quick Success

BY Jim Cosgrove

March 30-April 5, 2003 Issue | Posted 3/30/03 at 1:00 PM


With the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq under way, the Register will take Abraham Lincoln as its role model. When President James Polk started the Mexican-American War, he could rely on Congressman Lincoln to vote for supplies and provisions for the American forces there.

But when the White House demanded a resolution from Congress recognizing the justice of the war, Lincoln refused to vote for it. He said the war was unjust. For that reason Lincoln did not seek a second term; he knew he could not have been re-elected.

Like Congressman Lincoln, we have argued that war isn't the right answer to the situation in Iraq. But now, our president has ordered the invasion. Our arguments will fall silent. We join our fellow Americans in wishing our troops well.

We even hope and pray that American intervention will be successful — that it really will establish democracy and increase world peace, and that it will be the last such invasion.

In this, we have another role model: Pope John Paul II. U.S. News and World Report in 1991 recounted how the Pope reacted when the first Gulf War was under way.

The week he ordered U.S. troops into combat, George Bush Sr. was filled with self-doubt, regretting the failure of his efforts at diplomacy. A letter Bush received from the Holy Father comforted him. It said John Paul “said he was praying for peace but if hostilities broke out, he hoped the United States would win quickly and with minimal casualties.”

It's the same spirit Bishop Donald Wuerl showed in Pittsburgh the week the new Gulf War began.

“Just two weeks ago we gathered here,” he said in a homily the day after the invasion began, “in a context of prayer for peace. Much has changed since then. ... What is fact is that our president has made this judgment and we are all called to support him in prayer that God will give him wisdom and guidance as our national leader.”

Then he added, “Across this land, men and women in uniform as part of our Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard are responding to the call of their nation in what is described as its legitimate defense. Our prayers must be with them and for them. They have not asked for this struggle but are asked to place themselves in harm's way for the sake of their nation.”

Prayers for the troops, it seems, are paying off.

Our correspondents report on the many conversions and “reversions” that are occurring as troops go to war: “multitudes” of marriages being blessed by the Church, RCIA candidates cutting to the chase and being baptized early by special dispensation, daily Masses filled with congregants who say rosaries afterward, and many men and women returning to confession after a long hiatus.

If our troops are returning to God, the people of Iraq are doing so, also — in sadness and fear.

Papal nuncio Archbishop Fernando Filoni described it to our correspondent.

“We are living day by day, as always,” he said. “It is outside of our logic to show fear, even though it exists. We have faith in prayer. We show solidarity with our brothers and sisters here. We are trying to live these moments with serenity.”

Chaldean Archbishop Emmanuel-Karim Delly of Baghdad told us, “Every night, we have been praying the rosary for peace. Our Holy Mother will protect us and help us get out of this war, safe and sound.”

His words echo the Holy Father's. “I wish to renew my pressing appeal to increase our commitment to prayer and penance to beg Christ for the gift of his peace,” the Pope said.

We can join in that prayer and penance. We wish success to the men and women who are putting their lives on the line for America — a swift, effective end that minimizes the losses to the long-suffering people of Iraq. We pray for the clearest success of all: a lasting peace.