VATICAN CITY -- Pope John Paul II put aside his opposition to the US-led invasion against Saddam Hussein yesterday and urged the international community to help build a democratic Iraq.
John Paul, giving his annual address to ambassadors to the Holy See, said his stance against the war was well-known. He was a vocal critic of the invasion.
"What is important today is that the international community help the Iraqis, so that they may be put in the condition to retake the reins of their country," he said.
The text of John Paul's speech noted that Iraqis were rid of an oppressive regime, but he dropped that passage along with a number of other parts of the speech, including a condemnation of international terrorism.
The pope has difficulty reading because of Parkinson's disease and frequently skips over portions of his speeches. The Vatican considers the text official, whether delivered in full or not.
John Paul has repeatedly called for renewed respect for international law, and in Monday's speech repeated his view that war cannot resolve conflicts.
The US ambassador to the Vatican, James Nicholson, called the pope's remarks on Iraq "very forward looking."
The pope also lamented that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict "continues to be a permanent destabilizing factor for the whole region."