The Holy See
Pope John Paul II, Easter Message in St. Peter's Square, April 20, 2003 'Peace on earth, the profound aspiration of men and women of all times, can be firmly established and sustained only if the order established by God is firmly respected' (Encyclical 'Pacem in Terris,' Introduction). These are the first words of the historic Encyclical, in which forty years ago Blessed Pope John XXIII indicated to the world the way of peace. These words remain as timely as ever at the dawn of the third millennium, tragically marred by acts of violence and conflicts.
Peace in Iraq! With the support of the international community, may the Iraqi people become the protagonists of the collective rebuilding of their country. Peace in other parts of the world, where forgotten wars and protracted hostilities are causing deaths and injuries amid silence and neglect on the part of considerable sectors of public opinion.
With profound grief I think of the wake of violence and bloodshed, with no sign of ceasing, in the Holy Land. I think of the tragic situation of many countries on the African continent, which cannot be abandoned to itself. I am well aware of the centers of tension and the attacks on people's freedom in the Caucasus, in Asia and in Latin America, areas of the world equally dear to me.
Let there be an end to the chain of hatred and terrorism, which threatens the orderly development of the human family. May God grant that we be free from the peril of a tragic clash between cultures and religions. May faith and love of God make the followers of every religion courageous builders of understanding and forgiveness, patient weavers of a fruitful inter-religious dialogue, capable of inaugurating a new era of justice and peace. Pope John Paul II, Homily and Prayers of the Faithful during Palm Sunday Mass, April 13, 2003 [Christ is the] King of truth, freedom, justice and love. These are the four pillars on which it is possible to construct the building of true peace, as Blessed John XXIII wrote 40 years ago in the encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris.’
I hand symbolically to you, young people of the whole world, this historic document, more important than ever. Read it, meditate on it, make every effort to put it into practice. Then you will be ‘blessed,’ because you will be real children of the God of peace.
Peace is a gift of Christ, which he obtained for us with the sacrifice of the cross.
Let us pray for all peoples and cultures of the world, for all those who seek God in different religious ways. May there always be dialogue among them, may intolerance and contempt be extinguished, and together may they seek ways of concord and fraternity. Paul John II, Vatican City April 6, 2003 God willing, may this conflict end soon and open the way to a new era of forgiveness, love and peace…. To construct peace is a permanent commitment. The reality of these days demonstrates this in a dramatic way. My thoughts turn, in particular, to Iraq and to all who are involved in the war that rages there. I think especially of the unarmed civilian population that is subjected to a harsh test in various cities….Eventual controversies among peoples must not be resolved with recourse to arms but, instead, through negotiation….[It] is indispensable to educate the new generations to peace, which must be ever more the lifestyle. Pope John Paul II, Vatican City, April 2, 2003 Believers must be certain that history is not in the hands of fate, chaos and oppressive powers; the last word belongs to the just and strong God….The prophet makes us aware that God, even when he seems silent in the face of oppression, injustice or any other evil which touches man, never stops loving him and always comes to his aid if he turns to God with trust….But it is never a silence indicating an absence as if history were left in the hands of the perverse and the Lord remained indifferent and unmoved….To discover with the eyes of faith this divine presence in space and time, and within ourselves, is a source of hope and trust, even when our hearts are troubled and shaken' as the trees of the forest are shaken in the wind. Pope John Paul II, Message to the participants of the meeting humanitarian law and its specific application to situations of war and conflict, Rome March 25, 2003 It is precisely when arms are unleashed, that the need becomes imperative for laws that make military operations less inhuman….Even in the hardest of battles, it is always possible and, therefore, a duty to respect the dignity of the military adversary, the dignity of civilians, and the indelible dignity of each human being involved in armed conflicts….In this way, reconciliation necessary for the re-establishment of peace after the conflict is favored….It should be clear by now that war used as an instrument of resolution of conflicts between states was rejected, even before the Charter of the United Nations, by the conscience of the majority of humanity, except in the case of defense against an aggressor….The vast contemporary movement in favor of peace - which, according to Vatican Council II, is not reduced to a 'simple absence of war' - demonstrated this conviction of men of every continent and culture. Pope John Paul II, Statement receiving delegation from Lutheran Evangelical Church of the U.S., March 24, 2003 In a world situation filled with danger and insecurity, all Christians are called to stand together in proclaiming the values of the Kingdom of God….The events of recent days make this duty all the more urgent. Pope John Paul II, March 22, 2003 When, as in Iraq in these days, war threatens the fate of humanity, it is even more urgent to proclaim with a strong and decisive voice that peace is the only path for building a society which is more just and marked by solidarity. Violence and weapons can never resolve the problems of man. Pope John Paul II, Vatican City, March 17, 2003 I say to all: There is still time to negotiate. There is still room for peace. It is never too late to understand each other and to continue to work things out….Certainly, the political leaders in Baghdad have an urgent duty to cooperate fully with the international community, to eliminate any motive for armed intervention….To them I address my pressing appeal: The fate of your citizens should always have priority….To reflect on one's own duties and to make a commitment to effective negotiation is not humiliating oneself, but working responsibly for peace….Therefore, we pray that the Lord may inspire courage and farsightedness among all sides involved. Pope John Paul II, Address before midday Angelus, St. Peter's Square, March 16, 2003 The political leaders of Baghdad certainly have the urgent duty to collaborate fully with the international community, to eliminate every motive for armed intervention. To them I address my urgent appeal: The fate of fellow citizens is always the priority!
But I would also like to remind the member countries of the United Nations, and in particular those that make up the Security Council, that the use of force represents the last recourse, after having exhausted every other peaceful solution, in keeping with the well-known principles of the UN Charter itself.
[I]n the face of the tremendous consequences that an international military operation would have for the population of Iraq and the balance of the entire Middle East region…as well as for the extremisms that could ensue, I say to all: There is still time to negotiate; there is still room for peace; it is never too late to come to an understanding and to continue discussions.
To reflect on one's duties, to engage in energetic negotiations does not mean to be humiliated, but to work with responsibility for peace.
Pope John Paul II, Vatican City, address at St. Peter's Square, March 6, 2003
My thoughts turn, in particular, to Iraq and to all who are involved in the war that rages there. I think especially of the unarmed civilian population that is subjected to a harsh test in various cities. God willing, may this conflict end soon and open the way to a new era of forgiveness, love and peace. Pope John Paul II, Greeting a group of Polish pilgrims, Vatican City, March 5, 2003
I ask all of you for this prayer and fasting….May these be concrete gestures of the involvement on the part of those who believe in the mission to remind the world that it is never too late for peace Pope John Paul II, Homily at Ash Wednesday Mass, Basilica of St. Sabina, March 5, 2003
There will be no peace on earth while the oppression of peoples, injustices and economic imbalances, which still exist, endure….But for the desired structural changes to take place, external initiatives and interventions are not enough; what is needed above all is a joint conversion of hearts to love. Pope John Paul II, Address in St. Peter's Square, February 23, 2003
It is a duty for believers, regardless of the religion to which they belong, to proclaim that we will never be able to be happy if we are against one another; the future of humanity will never be able to be assured by terrorism and the logic of war. We Christians, in particular, are called to be like guardians of peace in the places where we live and work. We are asked, that is, to be alert, so that consciences will not yield to the temptation to egoism, falsehood and violence.
Therefore, I invite all Catholics to dedicate with special intensity next March 5, Ash Wednesday, to prayer and fasting for the cause of peace, especially in the Middle East. Pope John Paul II, Speech to the Sant'Egidio Community, February 8, 2003
Peace is in danger. We need to multiply our efforts. One cannot be immobile in the face of terrorist attacks, nor when faced with the threats that are being raised on the horizon. One should not give up, as if war is inevitable. Pope John Paul II, Address to the Diplomatic Corps, January 13, 2003
And what are we to say of the threat of a war which could strike the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely tried by more than twelve years of embargo? War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations. Archbishop Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, April 11, 2003 The crisis situation of the U.N., caused by the war in Iraq, does not contradict but reinforces the appeal of ‘Pacem in Terris’ for a world political authority….[T]he common good is a qualitative moral concept that calls for an appropriate world political authority…[T]he U.N. in not a super-state or a super-court; rather, its essence lies in the participatory process of construction of this universal authority….[It] is the obligatory path for modern civilization and world peace….[I]t is time to undertake a constitutional engineering of humanity so that the United Nations can carry out its irreplaceable role….[To achieve this objective,] it is necessary to favor multilateralism, not only at the diplomatic level, but also in the area of development plans.
[This requires] the desired revision of the very structure of the United Nations, so that all the member states will find sufficient guarantees of respect for their interests and—as ‘Pacem in Terris’ underlines—of respect of the principle of dignity of all nations and peoples….[T]he weakening of international organizations might imply a weakening of the consciousness of being one single family.
Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, interview with reporters in Rome, April 11, 2003
We are a family of nations. We have to cooperate; this is the destiny of peoples….We pray that God’s providence, which guides the destiny of peoples, will be able to draw good from evil.
Secretariat of State Holds Hope For Future of Iraq, Vatican City, April 10, 2003
The latest developments in Baghdad, which mark an important turning point in the Iraqi conflict and a significant opportunity for the future of the people, hopes that the military operations underway in the rest of the country will soon end, with the aim of sparing further victims, civilian or military, and further suffering for those populations. Given that the material, political and social reconstruction of the country are on the horizon, the Catholic Church is ready, through her social and charitable institutions, to lend the necessary assistance. The dioceses of Iraq are likewise available to offer their structures to contribute to an equitable distribution of humanitarian aid. The Secretariat of State hopes once again that, with the silencing of weapons, the Iraqis and the international community will know how to meet the compelling present challenge which is to definitively bring an era of peace to the Middle East.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, April 9, 2003
It is important that the reconstruction of Iraq is not carried out by just one power but by all nations: It is a common responsibility of all of us for this tormented country.
Archbishop Diarmuid Martin, Vatican’s representative to agencies of the United Nations in Geneva, statement at session of U.N. Human Rights Commission, April 8, 2003
Religious leaders have a special responsibility to strongly reaffirm—whenever possible together—that attempts to use religious sentiments to generate division, or to use religion as an excuse for violence or terrorism, cannot be reconciled with any true religious spirit....There is no place in a culture of tolerance for gestures and declarations…which show disrespect for or are offensive to what is most sacred to the conscience of individual believers and their communities.
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Rome April 10, 2003
We are very happy it turned out this way. It was not possible to foresee what might happen; with chemical arms, anything was possible. But now, we can begin again….It was right to resist the war and its threats of destruction. It should never be the responsibility of just one nation to make decisions for the world, so we must still work with the U.N.
Archbishop Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, During Commemoration of 40th Anniversary of "Pacem in Terris", March 9, 2003
With respect to 40 years ago, the need to seek the world's common good is extraordinarily evident, given that the interdependence and integration of economies, cultures and societies has greatly increased. Just as at the time of 'Pacem in Terris,' also in the hours we are now living, humanity suffers wounds, wars and divisions in the international organizations….The present international conflicts require once again that the Church offer humanity the very heart of its eternal message, the one of the Gospel of peace….All the more reason, [John XXIII's] message acquires today a particular importance, as long as we are able to perceive in depth all the elements of the present moment, among them, the relation between peace and terrorism, peace and a new world order, peace and the unity of the human family. Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations, Addresses at the Session of the Commission on Disarmament, April 2, 2003 We are confronted by two opposing perspectives: the first is based on the conviction that conflicts can be resolved by determined and broad-based willingness to negotiate effectively in light of the ways and wisdom of the law….The second perspective maintains that, in the face of elusive and re-emergent threats, force is more efficacious and direct….The latter position appears to only reduce international cooperation in disarmament rather than enhance it, inducing negative repercussions on multilateralism….all states and individuals enforce decisively the laws and procedures that have been established towards nuclear disarmament and the elimination if the threats posed by conventional arms….This is the moment that each one of us, aware of the gravity of the present situation when law must be chosen to prevail over force, must be animated by a profound sense of responsibility towards the disarmament process. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican spokesman, statement, Vatican City, March 20, 2003 The Holy See has learned with deep pain of the development of the latest events in Iraq. On the one hand, it is to be regretted that the Iraqi government did not accept the resolutions of the United Nations and the appeal of the Pope himself, as both asked that the country disarm. On the other hand, it is to be deplored that the path of negotiations, according to international law, for a peaceful solution of the Iraqi drama has been interrupted. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican spokesman, Statement to journalists, Vatican City, March 18, 2003 Whoever decides that all peaceful means made by international law have been exhausted assumes a serious responsibility before God, his conscience and history. Archbishop John P. Foley, President of the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, Mass at the Basilica of St. Mary Major, March 12, 2003
[A] just peace, involving also the effective disarmament of Iraq, is badly needed, not only for the poor, the innocent and the defenseless in the Middle East, but for the members of our own armed forces and indeed for our own populations who risk being victimized again by horrible terrorism. Cardinal Pio Laghi, Address at National Press Club, March 5, 2003
First, the Iraqi government is obliged to fulfill completely and fully its international obligations regarding human rights and disarmament under the U.N. resolutions with respect for international norms….Second, these obligations and their fulfillment must continue to be pursued within the framework of the United Nations…always taking into account the grave consequences of such an armed conflict…[such as] the suffering of the people of Iraq and those involved in the military operation, a further instability in the region, and a new gulf between Islam and Christianity. Joaquin Navarro-Valls, Vatican spokesman, Interview with Catholic News Service, March 5, 2003
The Vatican sees the United Nations as the guarantor of international law, and so it would view any action outside U.N. authorization as very dangerous….[T]he concept of ‘preventive war' is not found in the moral principles of just-war theory—not even if it is authorized by a vote of the United Nations. Archbishop Jean Louis-Tauran, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, Conference at Rome hospital, February 24, 2003
A war of aggression would be a crime against peace….No rule of international law authorizes one or more states to intervene unilaterally….The resources of international law must be fully employed, and the consequences of an armed intervention on the civilian population must be carefully weighed.
Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Representative of the Holy See to the United Nations, Address to the U.N. Security Council, February 20, 2003
The Holy See is convinced that even though the process of inspection appears somewhat slow, it still remains an effective path that could lead to the building of consensus which, if widely shared by Nations, would make it almost impossible for any Government to act otherwise, without risking international isolation. Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, Envoy of the Holy See to Baghdad, former head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Interview with La Repubblica, February 9, 2003
War would be a catastrophe in every respect. Above all, it would have grave consequences for the Iraqi population and would also make it increasingly difficult for the United Nations to work for the unity of the human family. Cardinal Angelo Sodano, Vatican Secretary of State, interview with Italian Reporters, January 29, 2003
We're asking for reflection not only on whether a war would be just or unjust, moral or immoral, but also whether it is opportune to irritate a billion followers of Islam….We are against the war. That is a moral position, and there's not much that needs to be said about whether (the war) is "preventive" or "nonpreventive." It's an ambiguous term. Certainly the war is not defensive. Archbishop Jean-Louis Tauran, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, December 23, 2002
The use of arms is not an inevitable fatality; what is more, no provision is made in the United Nations Charter for a preventive war….[N]othing should be decided without the consent of nations and international institutions, from whence derives the irreplaceable role of the U.N. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, September 21, 2002
The concept of a "preventive war" does not appear in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Other Episcopal Conferences
Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales, Statement, May 1, 2003
Iraq and Regional Peace
- At our meeting in Low Week we remembered and prayed for those who have died or have been wounded in the war in Iraq, and for those innocent civilians who have suffered so terribly in the military action and its aftermath. We prayed also for our service personnel who are still involved, and for their timely return.
- Even if the greatest care is taken to avoid civilian casualties, the nature of modern warfare is such that the general population of a country under attack is always at risk. We have serious concerns about the use made of weapons which have an inherently random or enduring impact, such as cluster-bombs and weapons incorporating depleted uranium. Once the conflict is over those who have used these weapons have a moral responsibility to do all they can to deal with the consequences of their use.
- There is now the opportunity for a better future for the people of Iraq, who before the war had endured a brutal dictatorship and more than a decade of comprehensive sanctions. For this future to be realised, the Coalition must be no less committed to the 'waging of peace' than it was to the waging of war. In the first instance it is crucial that law and order be established, so that urgent humanitarian needs can be met. There will follow an arduous long-term task of political and economic reconstruction, which will call on the generosity and skills of the international community. We believe that the UN must have a central role in this respect.
- The inherent right of Iraqis to self-determination in the regeneration of their country needs to be balanced by measures required for the civil and religious rights of all, and the protection of minorities. Iraq has a rich diversity of human communities, including communities of faith. The right to express religious faith without fear and discrimination must be regarded as a fundamental principle of the development of the country.
- Resolution of the crisis in Iraq will be successful only if the international community also devotes itself to promoting the stability of the entire region. No settlement can secure this goal unless the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is justly resolved. We affirm and will continue to support the special mission of the Church of the Holy Land to bring both sides to reconciliation and to assist in the search for a just peace, and the particular witness of the Latin Patriarch, Michel Sabbah.
It is our moral responsibility to avoid this war unless, in the face of a grave and imminent threat, there is no other possible means to achieve the just end of disarming Iraq….Grief for those killed and wounded in war will be the more agonising if their loss results from an armed conflict that could have been avoided without compromise to the common good. We pray that both sides step back from the brink of war. French Bishops' Conference, Statement, October 15, 2002
To date, the available information does not allow one to affirm that the conditions -- as one finds them summarized in the "Catechism of the Catholic Church," No. 2309 -- are met….[A] military conflict between an Arab country and the United States would…deepen the feeling that the great powers use "two weights, two measures" in enforcing application of U.N. resolutions in the region. German Bishops' Conference, Statement, January 20, 2003
The point at issue is war prevention not preventive war! A security policy that advocates preventive war is in contradiction with Catholic teaching and international law….A war also threatens to cause the most serious political divergences in the entire Middle East, which would put at risk the achievements of the international alliance against terror. Would the region have better prospects of peace, stability and the protection of human rights after a war? Catholic Bishops Conference of India, Statement, February 4, 2003
The world has been languishing under the folly of mindless terror and violence … and this must stop. However, the remedy for putting an end to such terrorist activities and organizations should not be worse than the malady itself, and that is what is feared, namely, a full-scale armed conflict. Let peace prevail and not war. Catholic Bishops Conference of Japan
We are opposed to the use of military power against Iraq. Though it will require great courage and solidarity, we appeal to international society to use all possible peaceful means to solve this problem.
Our world is facing crucial choices about war and peace, justice and security. Hatred breeds hatred, violence provokes violence; no peace is possible when violence is answered with violence. Precisely now is the time for the world to "break down the barriers of hostility that keep men apart" (Ephesians 2:14). We must grope for a policy of non-violence that will avoid the danger of war and seek peaceful solutions through diplomacy of dialog and cooperation. Catholic Bishops' Conference of Korea, Statement, February 14, 2003 All countries concerned with the danger of war should solve their conflicts through peaceful means. We condemn the logic of power, but support a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation. We must all strive together to root out the culture of death and build the culture of peace and the culture of life in our world. Pakistan's Church Leaders, Joint Pastoral Letter, January 16, 2003
As the calamity of war in Iraq looms on the horizon, we recognize that this war will have far-reaching and disastrous consequences for all our region. We share the concern of our Muslim brethren and all people of good will in expressing their total condemnation of this pre-emptive strike….[T]his is not a "war on international terrorism" but rather an outright attack on a sovereign state, which sets a precedent for bigger states to unilaterally declare war on smaller and weaker nations. Southern African Bishops' Conference, Statement, January 31, 2003
The fight against terrorism cannot be achieved through a war that will inevitably kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people, and terrorise millions more. We strongly believe that one of the main causes for terrorism is the disregard for justified claims of peoples who feel socially, economically and politically excluded, exploited and oppressed. The great majority of peace loving people around the world want the problems of this world to be resolved through peaceful means, not through war. They expect the USA and the West to take the lead in this regard. Spanish Bishops' Conference, Statement, February 19, 2003
At the present moment, we have to exhaust all peaceful means to avoid war, and in any case, to respect the international legality of the resolutions of the Security Council of the United Nations. We join with all our hearts with the actions of the Holy Father in favor of peace, and we pray that they find positive echo among the political leaders, such that they not weaken in their noble efforts to uphold the universal common good and know how to eliminate every reason that could justify the use of this ?extreme solution? that is armed intervention.
Statement of Relief Organizations
Caritas Internationalis, Statement, January 21, 2003
Already seriously weakened, the Iraqi people would pay an exorbitant price in the event of an attack. A conflict would inevitably lead to the deaths of thousands of people, and even greater numbers would be displaced or become refugees. In Iraq today, between 14 and 16 million persons (two thirds of the population) are entirely dependent on food rations distributed under the UN Oil-for-Food-Programme, purchased through the sale of Iraqi oil. In the event of a conflict and the inevitable destruction of communication and transport infrastructures, the whole system could be paralysed within a few hours. Likewise, as happened in the conflict of 1990-91, the water and sewage systems would be rapidly paralysed due to a lack of electricity, and polluted water could cause major outbreaks of disease and lead to epidemics.