The Archbishop of Canterbury Dr Rowan Williams and Archbishop of Westminster Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor have, after a private meeting, issued the following statement about the Iraq crisis:
War is always a deeply disturbing prospect; one that can never be contemplated without a sense of failure and regret that other means have not prevailed, and deep disquiet about all that may come in its train.
We are very conscious of the huge burden of responsibility carried by those who must make the ultimate decision in these matters.
They are daily in our thoughts and prayers, as are all those who would find themselves caught up directly or indirectly in a war.
The moral alternative to military action cannot be inaction, passivity, appeasement or indifference
The events of recent days show that doubts still persist about the moral legitimacy as well as the unpredictable humanitarian consequences of a war with Iraq.
We recognise that the moral alternative to military action cannot be inaction, passivity, appeasement or indifference.
It is vital therefore that all sides in this crisis engage through the United Nations fully and urgently in a process, including continued weapons inspections, that could and should render the trauma and tragedy of war unnecessary.
We strongly urge the government of Iraq to demonstrate forthwith its unequivocal compliance with UN resolutions on weapons of mass destruction.
The season of Lent is now approaching, a time when all Christian traditions encourage us to examine ourselves honestly, to acknowledge our shortcomings and to seek reconciliation with God.
We must hope and pray that, with God's guidance, an outcome that brings peace with justice to Iraq and the Middle East may yet be found.