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Last Updated:  Sunday, 16 March, 2003, 16:06 GMT
Troops pray for peace
16th Air Assault Brigade ecumenical service
The soldiers are praying for peace
"All things are in God's hands and he doesn't want you for a sunbeam - he wants you for a soldier. He wants you to fight for truth and offer prayer for justice."

Father Nick Gosnell's vestry was a dusty tent, his altar a table with a candle on top, his congregation the 120 men and women of the 3rd Battalion of the Parachute Regiment.

They sang: "Though I walk in Death's dark vale, yet will I fear no ill."

And although they were asked to pray for peace, on what might well be the last Sunday service before hostilities begin, in Iraq all thoughts were on war.

"Our time to shine, to be glorified, is now," the Roman Catholic padre added.

And he asked his flock to trust in the Lord, whatever the next few days might bring.

'Faithful

"We cannot know the future or what God has in store for us. All we can do is be faithful."

Speaking for himself and his two fellow non-combatant padres attached to 16th Air Assault Brigade, Father Gosnell said: "If we are not here next Sunday, it's been a privilege for us to worship with you.

"You will see us on the battlefield looking terribly unsoldierly, out of shape and out of place.

"Where you are, we will go

16th Air Assault Brigade ecumenical service
The 16th Air Assault Brigade has three padres in the Gulf

"Wherever we are, never be frightened to ask for help and never be worried about the future whoever and wherever you are."

Few, if any, of the soldiers in Kuwait have any time for the anti-war lobby.

But there is little doubt many would feel more comfortable if they were more confident of the country's full backing.

Father Gosnell does not question the morality of war.

"Our job is solely to look after the concerns of the boys and girls who will be fighting," he said.

"I don't carry a weapon and I don't fight. We tend to the people who do."




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