- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

VATICAN CITY Pope John Paul II yesterday endorsed the view that countries have the moral and legal right to defend themselves against terrorism, but said forgiveness is also needed for true peace to take root in the world.
The comments, the pope's strongest on the principle of "just wars" since September 11, were contained his annual peace message, which will be delivered Jan. 1. The Vatican released the message yesterday, three months after the terrorist attacks in the United States.
To mark the date, American Cardinal Edmond Szoka celebrated a special Vatican Mass that began at 2:46 p.m., the time locally when the first hijacked plane slammed into the World Trade Center in New York City. Calling the attacks a "horrendous massacre" and a true crime against humanity, John Paul said in his Jan. 1 speech that terrorism is "born in hatred," flourishes in poverty, isolation and fanaticism and leads to a "tragic spiral of violence that involves each new generation."
Nevertheless, he said, there was no way to justify acts of terror either in the name of religion or to combat world injustices.
"Terrorism's pretext that it acts in the name of poverty is clearly false," he said. "Terrorist violence is contrary to the faith in God."
He endorsed the right to defend against terrorism but emphasized the fight must be limited to the terrorists themselves and not expanded to cover entire nations, ethnic groups or religions.
"It is a right which, like every other one, must respond to moral and legal rules in the choice of both objectives and means," he said.
The pope has strongly and repeatedly condemned the September 11 attacks, but his comments on the right to combat terrorism were his most extensive to date. Previously, Vatican officials and Catholics had acknowledged that right, although they have stressed that any "just war" needs to avoid harming innocent people.
John Paul agreed it was difficult to even speak about forgiveness in the aftermath of September 11, but said forgiveness is the only way to lasting peace. "There is no peace without justice, there is no justice without forgiveness," he said.
He cited "acts of terrorism or war" between Israel and the Palestinians in pressing his case for the need for a just peace and reconciliation in the Middle East.
, and called again for Christian, Jewish and Muslim religious leaders to work together to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism.
"Recruiting terrorists is easier in a social context in which rights are violated and injustice is long tolerated," he said.
In other commemorations yesterday, U.S. Ambassador Mel Sembler presided over a ceremony at the American Embassy in Rome, speaking behind an urn full of ashes gathered at the Trade Center site and an American flag that had been flown there after the attacks.
In Naples, the Chamber of Commerce presented the U.S. consulate with a nativity scene by the city's famed craftsmen that shows the three wise men offering the baby Jesus helmets of New York City firefighters rather than the traditional gold, frankincense and myrrh.
The 110-piece nativity scene is to be presented to the New York City Fire Department, which lost 343 members in the attacks.

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