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Vatican Declares Catholicism a Peace Church: Follow the Way of the Great Prophets of Peace, the way of Conscientious Objection and of Alternative Social Service, the way of Nonviolence

Excerpted from Cardinal Bertone’s first address as new Vatican Secretary of State to the Vatican Diplomatic Corps, all the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, on September 29, 2006.

Our contemporaries hope that the diplomats in their role will contribute to establishing and maintaining “an international order, the art of establishing reasonable human relations among peoples” (Paul VI, Speech to the Diplomatic Corps, January 8, 1968). They desire also that the diplomats will be peacemakers, “servants of the interests of the peoples” (cf. John Paul II, Speech to the Swiss Diplomatic Corps, June 13, 1984), men of law, of reason, of sincere dialogue, and who promote a renewed impetus of solidarity among peoples, especially in order to review the matter of the debt of the poorest countries so that there will never again be persons, above all children, who die of hunger or endemic illnesses, that never again will there be innocent victims of war or local conflicts; that never again will anyone be mistreated for their convictions or their beliefs.

A universal commitment is urged on behalf of the neediest of the world, of the poorest, of the persons who often seek in vain for that on which they and their families might live. The dignity, the freedom, and the unconditional respect of every human being in their fundamental rights, in particular their liberty of conscience and of religion, must be among the primordial concerns, given that we must be in solidarity with their situation and with the future of our brothers and sisters, not remaining indifferent in the face of the sufferings that disfigure man and which each day are before our eyes.

I know how much diplomats are particularly attentive to these delicate questions in the whole world. I think especially of the violence, in all its forms, inflicted on women, and on children, born or about to be born. The defense of life, from conception to its natural end, just as the defense of the family based in marriage, are also essential themes of social life. Paul VI also emphasized that diplomacy “confronts more directly the real and concrete problems of social life, and above all what can be defined as the most important of all, the problem of peace” (Speech to the Diplomatic Corps, January 8, 1986).

As he said, in a speech on December 6 of 1986:

“The contribution of the Holy See to the question of peace is particularly rich and comprehensive, since the key points of the Magisterium largely surpass the systematic and organic in-depth study of the theologians.” There exist profound links, underlined by the Popes, between peace and the development of peoples, between peace and liberation, between peace and human rights, between peace and international solidarity.

The Popes have given new names to peace and have offered ways to arrive at true peace. Ways that do not exclude, but integrate one with another: political and diplomatic ways, that become concrete through agreements that prevent and block conflicts; juridical and institutional ways, that raise up new institutions to guarantee security and peace; a psychological and pedagogical way-I say this as a Salesian, as a son of Don Bosco-that through multiple educational centers tends to form a culture of peace; the way of the witness of the great prophets of peace; the way of conscientious objection and of alternative social service, the way of nonviolence.

The crucial fields where the intersection of the prophetic aspect and the concrete necessities of life appear most strongly-that a human ethics also must consider, particularly in the context of private and organized violence, marked also by the plurality of opinions that confront them are the following:

– Social Protection to guarantee objective order and the defense of human rights;

– Condemnation of war in the field of ethics, and its exclusion as a means to resolve eventual differences between States

– Security , which privileges nonmilitary components and reinforces instead political, economic and social structures;

– Disarmament , which must embrace all types of arms, and thus become general, including the objective of “unilateral disarmament,” that covers a great ethical and positive value.

On these themes, the search of intellectuals and the reflections of organisms of the Church and Christian communities will never stop.

In every case, the documents of the Holy See, and above all the clearly evident Magisterial postwar texts, are not texts which one can read over quickly or, even worse, be allowed to be ignored. They are texts that must be read attentively and meditatively, so that the ideas can be translated into practical actions and the world can recognize the force and current importance of the Christian message in the gift of self and the courage with which Christians act on behalf of peace, today, for all people.

Translated by the Houston Catholic Worker from the Spanish-language text provided by the Vatican ).

Houston Catholic Worker, Vol. XXVI, No. 6, November-December 2006.