Pope Francis has addressed a message to the United Nations Security Council meeting in New York to reiterate his call for an end to violence, conflicts and building up weapons, saying they reflect the “famine of fraternity” marking today’s world. He said, “the time has come to say an emphatic “no” to war, to state that wars are not just, but only peace is just.” And “peace is possible if it is truly desired.”
This clear message from Pope Francis came via Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, the Vatican’s Secretary for Relations with States and International Organisations, who read the Pope’s message, as he is still recovering from surgery in hospital on 7 June at Rome’s Gemelli Hospital.
The Pope’s address opens with an analysis of the “crucial moment” humanity is going through, “in which peace seems to give way to war” and when it seems that “we are going backwards in history, with the rise of myopic, extremist, resentful and aggressive nationalisms that have kindled conflicts which are not only anachronistic and outdated, but even more violent”
Conflicts are increasing and stability is increasingly put at risk, he notes, saying that we are living through a third world war fought in piecemeal, that is expanding as time goes on.
The UN Security Council itself, whose mandate is to oversee security and peace in the world “seems in people’s eyes to be powerless and paralysed,” the Pope observed. “Yet your work, much appreciated by the Holy See, is essential in order to promote peace,” he went on to say, and “precisely for this reason, I want to offer you a heartfelt invitation to face our common problems, setting aside ideologies and narrow visions, partisan ideas and interests.”
A single intent must move all this effort, the Pope underscored, that of striving for the good of all humanity. He writes, “this Council is expected to respect and apply “the Charter of the United Nations with transparency and sincerity, and without ulterior motives, as an obligatory reference point of justice and not as a means of masking spurious intentions”.
In today’s globalised world we are all closer, but we are not any more fraternal, he pointed out. And, on the contrary, “we are suffering from a famine of fraternity, which arises from the many situations of injustice, poverty and inequality and also from the lack of a culture of solidarity.”
Quoting his Message for the World Day of Peace 2023: “New ideologies, characterised by widespread individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that ‘throwaway’ mentality, which leads to contempt for and abandonment of, the weakest and those considered ‘useless’. In this way human coexistence increasingly tends to resemble a mere do ut des which is both pragmatic and selfish”
The worst effect of this famine of fraternity he noted are “armed conflict and war,” which “makes enemies of not only individuals but entire peoples, and whose negative consequences reverberate for generations.” This marks a step backward for humanity, he notes, compared to the eras following the two “terrible” world wars, when it seemed that lessons had been learned with the founding of the United Nations. And that is the importance of moving towards “a more stable peace, to become, at last, a family of nations.”
As a “man of faith,” the Pope assured that peace is “God’s dream for humanity.” But one cannot help but note with regret that “because of war, this wonderful dream is becoming changed into a nightmare.” The root of the problem is also economic, the Pope admits: “war is often more enticing than peace, inasmuch as it promotes profit, but always for a few and at the expense of the wellbeing of entire populations. The money earned from arms sales is thus money soiled with innocent blood.”
It takes “courage,” he says, then “to renounce easy profits for the sake of keeping peace than to sell ever more sophisticated and powerful weapons. It takes more courage to seek peace than to wage war. It takes more courage to promote encounter than confrontation, to sit at the negotiating table than to continue hostilities.”
To build peace, the Pope insists, “we must move away from the logic of the legitimacy of war,” not least because while armed conflicts in the past had a more limited scope, today “with nuclear weapons and those of mass destruction, the battlefield has become practically unlimited, and the effects potentially catastrophic.”
“The time has come to say an emphatic “no” to war, to state that wars are not just, but only peace is just: a stable and lasting peace, built not on the precarious balance of deterrence, but on the fraternity that unites us.”
We are indeed journeying on the same earth, inhabitants of a single common home, the Pope pointed out, and we cannot “darken the heaven under which we live with the clouds of nationalisms.”
“Where will we end up if everyone thinks only of themselves?” the Pope asked. But “those who strive to build peace must promote fraternity.” This is a “craft” that requires “passion and patience, experience and farsightedness, tenacity and dedication, dialogue and diplomacy.” And it also requires “listening” especially to the cry of those who suffer as a result of conflicts, especially children.
“Their tear-stained eyes judge us: the future we prepare for them will be the court of our present choices.”
He underscored that “there is still time to write a new chapter of peace in history,” concluding that “we can do so in such a way that war would belong to the past, not to the future.” The key, decisive word is: “fraternity.”
“Fraternity cannot remain an abstract idea, but must become a real point of departure.”