War can only be justified when other options to peace have been exhausted, according to the Salt Lake Roman Catholic Diocese.

Responding to the outbreak of hostilities in the Middle East, the Rev. Robert J. Bussen, vicar general of the diocese, said he and other officials are deeply disappointed that the crisis has resulted in war.Kathy Hodges, director of communications, released the following statement on behalf of the diocese:

"The National Conference of Catholic Bishops has consistently urged our nation to resist and reverse Iraq's brutal aggression by determined but peaceful means.

"There are those who view war as but one more arrow in the arsenal for peace. It is not. War is the absence of peace. War is the breakdown of non-violent resolution to conflict. War is the admission of failure in the human venture to live in harmony.

"Pope John Paul II wrote last-minute letters appealing for peace to President Bush and Saddam Hussein. In that correspondence Pope Paul reminded the leaders that experience `teaches all humanity that war, besides causing many victims, creates situations of grave injustice which, in their turn, constitute a powerful temptation to further recourse to violence.'

"So it is that we join with so many others who feel great sadness this day.

"Our nation has struggled with these difficult issues for many months. Now the debate has ended. We and our allies are at war against Saddam Hussein.

"We commend President Bush for his attention to the moral limitations of war. Reports to date indicate that the military forces have avoided the targeting of major population centers, the bombing of innocent civilians and sought the preservation of major religious and cultural sites.

"We pray for the safety and welfare of the people of that troubled region. We pray especially for the American men and women deployed in the Gulf, that they may return home safely and soon. We are justly proud of the professionalism of our military forces. We support them and their families in these uncertain times."

Catholic parishes throughout the diocese will be open for Catholics and others to pray.