Meeting with Iraqi Governing Council
posted on 17 December 2003
A team led by Archbishop Patrick Kelly, representing Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, today held a meeting with representatives of the new Iraqi Governing Council in Archbishop's House, London. The meeting was arranged at the request of the Iraqi delegation and was facilitated by the UK Foreign Office.
There was agreement at the meeting that pluralism and freedom, including religious freedom, are indispensable for the future of Iraq and the active participation of Iraq’s faith communities, most of which are represented on the Governing Council, will be critical to the successful rebuilding of civil society in Iraq. Genuine political freedom, and social development, will be strengthened by the guarantee of religious freedom.
The delegation stressed how keenly it felt the need for Iraqis to re-assume control over the civil and political institutions of their country. Commenting, Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, said
“The clear recognition that true freedom for Iraqis must mean more than the absence of political oppression was very striking.
'Political and religious freedom always go hand-in hand. Both must be guaranteed by a new Iraqi constitution.
'I have no doubt that the Catholic community in this country will play an active and generous role in supporting the reconstruction of Iraq”.
Bishop Tom Burns, Bishop of the Forces, added:
“ The fact that the Governing Council asked for this meeting underlines that the contribution of people of faith is central to the rebuilding and long-term stability of Iraq.”
In a written message to the Iraqi delegation, which was read at the beginning of the meeting, Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor said:
' I know how testing a challenge you face in building a future for your people based on mutual respect and which guarantees peace and freedom – including religious freedom - for all.'