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The Pope: Teacher of Globalization?

What are Pope John Paul II’s thoughts on peace and global development?

January 16, 2004

What are Pope John Paul II's thoughts on peace and global development?

As violence persists around the world — and the fear of terrorism grows greater with each passing year — the international community remains on a path to expand ideological rifts. In this Globalist Document, excerpted from Pope John Paul II's January 2004 "World Day of Peace" speech, the Pope highlights his secular ideal of peaceful global coexistence.

My words are addressed to you, the leaders of the nations, who have the duty of promoting peace. To you, jurists, committed to tracing paths to peaceful agreement, preparing conventions and treaties which strengthen international legality.

To you, teachers of the young, who on all continents work tirelessly to form consciences in the ways of understanding and dialogue.

And to you too, men and women tempted to turn to the unacceptable means of terrorism — and thus compromise at its root the very cause for which you are fighting.

All of you, hear the humble appeal of the Successor of Peter who cries out: Today too, at the beginning of the New Year 2004, peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty.

For my part, throughout these 25 years of my Pontificate, I have sought to advance along the path marked out by my venerable Predecessor.

At the dawn of each new year, I have invited people of good will to reflect, in the light of reason and of faith, on different aspects of an orderly coexistence.

The result has been a synthesis of teaching about peace, which is a kind of primer on this fundamental theme.

It is a primer easy to understand by those who are well-disposed, but at the same time quite demanding for anyone concerned for the future of humanity.

The various colors of the prism of peace have now been amply illustrated. What remains now is to work to ensure that the ideal of a peaceful coexistence, with its specific requirements, will become part of the consciousness of individuals and peoples.

We Christians see the commitment to educate ourselves and others to peace as something at the very heart of our religion.

In this task of teaching peace, there is a particularly urgent need to lead individuals and peoples to respect the international order — and to respect the commitments assumed by the authorities which legitimately represent them.

Peace and international law are closely linked to one another: law favors peace.

From the very dawn of civilization, developing human communities sought to establish agreements and pacts which would avoid the arbitrary use of force — and enable them to seek a peaceful solution to any controversies which might arise.

Alongside the legal systems of the individual peoples, there progressively grew up another set of norms which came to be known as ius gentium (the law of the nations).

With the passage of time, this body of law gradually expanded and was refined in the light of the historical experiences of the different peoples.

This process was greatly accelerated with the birth of modern states. A pivotal presupposition of the human family.

From the 16th century on, jurists, philosophers and theologians were engaged in developing the various headings of international law and in grounding it in the fundamental postulates of the natural law.

This process led with increasing force to the formulation of universal principles, which are prior, and superior to, the internal law of states — and which take into account the unity and the common vocation of the human family.

Central among all these is surely the principle that pacta sunt servanda accords freely signed must be honored.

This is the pivotal and undisputed presupposition of every relationship between responsible contracting parties.

The violation of this principle necessarily leads to a situation of illegality — and consequently to friction and disputes which would not fail to have lasting negative repercussions.

It is appropriate to recall this fundamental rule, especially at times when there is a temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law.

One of these moments was surely the drama which humanity experienced during World War II: an abyss of violence, destruction — and death — unlike anything previously known.

That war, with the horrors and the appalling violations of human dignity which it occasioned, led to a profound renewal of the international legal order.

The defense and promotion of peace were set at the center of a broadly modernized system of norms and institutions.

The task of watching over global peace and security — and with encouraging the efforts of states to preserve and guarantee these fundamental goods of humanity — was entrusted by governments to the United Nations Organization.

It is an organization established for this purpose, with a Security Council invested with broad discretionary power. Pivotal to the system was the prohibition of the use of force.

This prohibition, according to the well-known Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, makes provision for only two exceptions.

The first confirms the natural right to legitimate defense, to be exercised in specific ways and in the context of the United Nations — and consequently also within the traditional limits of necessity and proportionality.

The other exception is represented by the system of collective security, which gives the Security Council competence and responsibility for the preservation of peace, with power of decision and ample discretion.

The system developed with the United Nations Charter was meant "to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind."

In the decades which followed, however, the division of the international community into opposing blocs — the Cold War in one part of the world, the outbreak of violent conflicts in other areas and the phenomenon of terrorism — produced a growing break with the ideas and expectations of the immediate post-war period.

It must be acknowledged, however, that the United Nations Organization, even with limitations and delays due in great part to the failures of its members, has made a notable contribution to the promotion of respect for human dignity.

It has promoted the freedom of peoples and the requirements of development, thus preparing the cultural and institutional soil for the building of peace.

The activity of national governments will be greatly encouraged by the realization that the ideals of the United Nations have become widely diffused, particularly through the practical gestures of solidarity and peace made by the many individuals also involved in non-governmental organizations and in movements for human rights.

This represents a significant incentive for a reform, which would enable the United Nations Organization to function effectively for the pursuit of its own stated ends, which remain valid: "Humanity today is in a new and more difficult phase of its genuine development. It needs a greater degree of international ordering."

States must consider this objective as a clear moral and political obligation which calls for prudence and determination. Here, I would repeat the words of encouragement which I spoke in 1995.

"The United Nations Organization needs to rise more and more above the cold status of an administrative institution and to become a moral center where all the nations of the world feel at home — and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a family of nations."

Today, international law is hard-pressed to provide solutions to situations of conflict arising from the changed landscape of the contemporary world.

These situations of conflict frequently involve agents which are not themselves states, but rather entities derived from the collapse of states, or connected to independence movements — or linked to trained criminal organizations.

A legal system made up of norms established down the centuries as a means of disciplining relations between sovereign states finds it difficult to deal with conflicts which also involve entities incapable of being considered states in the traditional sense.

This is particularly the case with terrorist groups. The scourge of terrorism has become more virulent in recent years and has produced brutal massacres.

These have, in turn, put even greater obstacles in the way of dialogue and negotiation, increasing tensions and aggravating problems — especially in the Middle East.

Even so, if it is to be won, the fight against terrorism cannot be limited solely to repressive and punitive operations.

It is essential that the use of force — even when necessary — be accompanied by a courageous and lucid analysis of the reasons behind terrorist attacks.

The fight against terrorism must be conducted also on the political and educational levels. On the one hand, by eliminating the underlying causes of situations of injustice — which frequently drive people to more desperate and violent acts.

On the other hand — by insisting on an education inspired by respect for human life in every situation.

The unity of the human race is a more powerful reality than any contingent divisions separating individuals and people.

In the necessary fight against terrorism, international law is now called to develop legal instruments provided with effective means for the prevention, monitoring and suppression of crime.

In any event, democratic governments know well that the use of force against terrorists cannot itself justify a renunciation of the principles of the rule of law.

Political decisions would be unacceptable were they to seek success without consideration for fundamental human rights, since the end never justifies the means.

At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to repeat to women and men of every language, religion and culture the ancient maxim: “Omnia vincit amor” (Love conquers all).

Yes, dear brothers and sisters throughout the world, in the end love will be victorious! Let everyone be committed to hastening this victory. For it is the deepest hope of every human heart.

For the full text of Pope John Paul II’s January 1, 2004 speech “An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace,” click here.