Sunday, September 15, 2013

Pope Francis and War

Pope Francis has asked all of us to pray and fast for peace in Syria. In the Catholic Times, both the desk columnist and the editorial reflect on the words of the Pope and their practical application to all of us. Even the Great Mufti invited all Syrian Muslims to pray for peace in mosques in Damascus and across Syria, in communion with the Pope. The Patriarch of Constantinople, Bartholomew, joined with Pope Francis in praying for peace in Syria.

The pope said, very pointedly, the columnist reports, that there is doubt about the motives of the United States for wanting to attack Syria. Is it for humanitarian reasons or is it to sell more weapons of war? These words of the pope, the spiritual father of Catholics throughout the world, could not have been easy to say, according to the columnist.

The popes in recent history have been spokespersons for peace in the world, coming out strongly against all forms of violence. Much of what is going on in the world is not for the good of humanity as a whole, but rather the consequences of an extreme hardhearted and unfeeling self-interest, he says.

In the past, the Church  supported the just-war understanding, and has promoted this thinking and  participated in what was considered just-wars, the crusades being one example of this thinking. One of the symbols of this thinking remains in the Vatican Swiss Guards. Pope Julius II, during the Renaissance, led his Catholic troops into combat dressed in full armor. However, in the 20th century, most everyone would agree that the preferred method for solving problems is by dialogue and negotiations.  Benedict 15th worked to end the first world war and Pius 12th the second world war.

Reasons for the change, says the columnist, are the development of weapons of mass destruction, and the number of innocent people injured and killed--collateral damage, as it's euphemistically called-- in modern warfare. War no longer can be seen as an option under any circumstances, the columnist says, but as an absolute evil.

The editorial states categorically that the use of chemical weapons has to be prevented but this has to be done following international law and not unilaterally by a strong country with their use of force. Fortunately, there now seems to be a way out with the proposal that the stockpile of chemical weapons be turned over to supervision by the UN, and ultimately destroyed.

The  whole issue is surrounded with a great deal of ambiguity, and the US threat to use force has not disappeared. The editorial says that as long as the motive of selling arms continues, the end is not yet in sight. The pope has clearly stated that the Catholic Church is against the use of military arms, and that everyone should be against all wars and supporters of peace.

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