Pope Benedict on War and Peace

Pope Benedict XVI


Pope Benedict XVI arrived in the United Kingdom yesterday and was part of an inter-religious meeting today.

One of the items that he discussed was on religion and peace:

LONDON (CNS) — In a world where religious convictions are misunderstood or mocked, members of every religion have an obligation to live in peace with each other and work together to show that faith does not breed ignorance and hatred, Pope Benedict XVI said.

“The spiritual dimension of our lives is fundamental to our identity as human beings,” the pope said Sept. 17 during a meeting with representatives of Great Britain’s Jewish, Muslim, Hindu and Sikh communities. The gathering took place at St. Mary’s University College in Twickenham, a London suburb. (Wooden C. Pope, religious leaders say religion promotes peace, not ignorance.  Catholic News Service, 17 September 2010. http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/1003764.htm)

And I agree with the pontiff on that statement.

The pontiff’s inter-religious meeting also seemed to have an ecumenical orientation as he stated:

Pope Benedict pledged the Catholic Church would “continue to work to build bridges of friendship to other religions, to heal past wrongs and to foster trust between individuals and communities.” (ibid)

Now, while ecumenism may be the main reason for the visit to the United Kingdom, I would like to focus on the pontiff’s position on war and peace.  Notice something that he said nearly four years ago:

My Predecessor considered this “ministerium pacis inter arma” “a new proclamation of the Gospel in the military world, of which the Christian soldiers and their communities cannot fail to be the first heralds” (Address, Third International Congress of Military Ordinariates, 11 March 1994; ORE, 23 March, n. 5, p. 6).

The Church is missionary by nature and her principal task is evangelization, which aims to proclaim and to witness to Christ and to promote his Gospel of peace and love in every environment and culture.

The Church is also called in the military world to be “salt”, “light” and “leaven”, to use the images to which Jesus himself refers, so that mindsets and structures may be ever more fully oriented to building peace, in other words, to that “order planned and willed by the love of God” (Message for World Day of Peace, 1 January 2006, n. 3; ORE, 21 December 2005, p. 6), in which people and peoples can develop to the full and see their own fundamental rights recognized (cf. ibid., n. 4).

The Church’s teaching on the subject of peace is an essential aspect of her social doctrine. Grafted onto very ancient roots, it continued to develop in the past century in a sort of “crescendo” which culminated in the Pastoral Constitution “Gaudium et Spes,” in the Encyclicals of Bl. John XXIII and of the Servants of God Paul VI and John Paul II, as well as in their Addresses to the United Nations Organization and their Messages for each World Day of Peace.

This insistent appeal for peace has influenced Western culture, fostering the ideal that the Armed Forces are “an exclusive service for the security and freedom of peoples” (Benedict XVI. Giving Priority to the Soldier’s Christian Formation. Vatican translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered in the Vatican on Oct. 26 to the participants in the 5th International Congress of Military Ordinariates. From http://www.zenit.org/english/ 11/13/06).

Essentially, while Pope Benedict publicly stated today that people of various religions should live in peace, he also has indicated that it is appropriate for Christians to be soldiers in the military.  And historically, his church has backed such military adventures such as the Crusades, Inquisition, and persecutions and other armed conflicts.

Because of this, it may be a surprise to some, but originally no Christian would fight in the military.  Even attending gladiatorial games was not considered to be a Christian thing to do.  Those who practice the faith of the original Christian church do not engage in carnal warfare.

Some articles of possibly related interest may include:

Military Service and the Churches of God: Do Real Christians Participate in Carnal Warfare? Here are current and historical perspectives on a matter which show the beliefs of the true church on military participation. Is war proper for Christians?
Which Is Faithful: The Roman Catholic Church or the Living Church of God? Do you know that both groups shared a lot of the earliest teachings? Do you know which church changed? Do you know which group is most faithful to the teachings of the apostolic church? Which group best represents true Christianity? This documented article answers those questions. Português: Qual é fiel: A igreja católica romana ou a igreja viva do deus? Tambien Español: Cuál es fiel: ¿La iglesia católica romana o La Iglesia del Dios Viviente? Auch: Deutsch: Welches zuverlässig ist: Die Römisch-katholische Kirche oder die lebende Kirche von Gott?

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