Address on 50th Anniversary of Pax Christi Movement

Author: Pope John Paul II


Pope John Paul II

Address on 50th Anniversary of Pax Christi Movement given on May 29, 1995

Your Eminence, Dear Brothers in the Episcopate, Dear Friends,

1. I am pleased to receive you on the occasion of the International Meeting of the Pax Christi Movement which took place last week in Assisi, and the gathering at which you celebrated the 50th anniversary of your movement's foundation at the end of the Second World War. I greet in particular Cardinal Godfried Danneels, your President, and the Bishops present.

Pax Christi came into existence through the awareness of the unbelievably destructive power of war and the great suffering experienced by peoples during the years of fighting. The movement is a sign of the will of Christians to prevent recurrence of another such catastrophe. In the face of hatred and the lack of respect for the human person and his fundamental rights, your movement has never ceased to campaign for peace and reconciliation. It came into being to promote the weapons of prayer, dialogue and reflection, which alone can radically oppose violence and all the inhuman effects of totalitarian ideologies.

2. In my recent Message on the 50th Anniversary of the End of the Second World War, I wanted to recall the meaning of this war for the people of that time and for those of today. "The tragic experience of the years 1939-1945 today represents a kind of point of reference necessary for all who wish to reflect on the present and on the future of humanity" (L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 17 May 1995, n. 2). The cries of the victims of this war cannot leave humanity today, especially youth, indifferent. A serious examination of the factors which led to the outbreak of this conflict, the tremendous destruction and deep suffering invite us to state ever more firmly: war never again; it inflicts lasting wounds on brotherhood in Christ the Redeemer.

3. Our society must be vigilant if it is to avoid the recurrence of totalitarian ideologies, because they offend the dignity of every individual and foster rejection of the portion of humanity that does not belong to a specific culture or religion. It is appropriate constantly to bear in mind that everything opposed to human life paves the way to the culture of death and that every crime against life is an attack on peace (cf. Paul VI, Message for World Day of Peace, 1977). An analysis of the origins of the Second World War leads to the discovery that the culture of hatred and intolerance, with the rejection of those who were different, prepared the ground for the reign of violence.

In 1945, at the end of the deadly fighting, hope in a future of peace and solidarity was able to be reborn among the peoples of Europe, who ardently longed for all men to speak to one another at last and build a fraternal society. It was in this spirit that the Pax Christi Movement was founded as a movement for reconciliation between individuals and peoples. Its name vividly recalls the origin of true peace: the Lord, who came to put in our hearts the necessary grace for conversion and reconciliation, the way of true humanity. In fact, the world cannot of itself give peace, which starts when the individual accepts the forgiveness of God who is rich in mercy.

Reconciled, put at peace and unified by Christ, each individual can in turn struggle against the sin which separates him from others. In this way he becomes a peacemaker among all his brethren, not only between his friends but also his enemies; in fact, loving the latter is a "strictly Christian trait" (Tertullian, Ad scapulam, 1, 3), for it is an extraordinary gift of divine charity.

4. Over the past few years your movement has also devoted itself to promoting communion and dialogue among Christians and between the different religious creeds patiently and impartially. Wherever possible, you have toiled to build peace through the mutual understanding of communities, with respect for the rights and specific cultures of individuals and peoples. By means of dialogue, you have shown that historical divisions and barriers between human groups can be overcome, and that harmonious co-existence is possible if solidarity is fostered.

5. In your presence, I would like once again to recall the appeals of my predecessors and those I myself have made on many occasions regarding the moral implications of systematical or facile recourse to arms, and on the need to progress in the direction of disarmament.

No form of violence can settle conflicts between individuals or nations, for violence begets violence. It would be appropriate to remind arms-manufacturing countries of their moral responsibility, particularly in their exchanges with the developing countries, where too much importance is given to the supply of arms, thus putting these countries heavily in debt instead of helping them to use their own resources and international aid for human advancement. Today there are numerous instruments, in every nation as well as at the international level, with which to encourage honesty and respect for legality in the arms trade. On this topic, the United Nations' recent decision, adopted by consensus in favour of the indefinite extension of the treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, should be acknowledged. At the same time, it is to be hoped that all countries will strive to implement this treaty fully and effectively, with a view to creating an international order guaranteeing security for all through the achievement of disarmament. Further, it is right and proper that public opinion, thanks to movements like yours, should be made aware and should receive the necessary education to exert the proper pressure on the authorities and various human groups, so that the fragile edifice of peace may not be threatened merely for reasons of interest.

6. The leaders of nations and those involved in the political and economic sphere have heavy responsibilities in the production and use of certain types of weaponry which are particularly traumatic, and have harsh and indiscriminating effects on the civilian population, with consequences which far outlast the period of conflict. I would like once more to make a forceful appeal to discontinue once and for all the manufacture and utilization of weapons which are known as "anti-personnel mines". In many countries they have inordinately delayed the restoration of peace because they were laid on roads and in fields with the intention of indiscriminately wounding the maximum number of people. Indeed, long after hostilities are over, they continue to kill and to cause irreparable damage, besides causing the serious mutilation of adults and especially of children.

7. However, neither the reduction in the number of weapons, disarmament, nor the absence of war lead immediately to peace. It is essential to create a culture of life and a culture of peace. This is an apprenticeship that must start very early, in the family and in the different areas of education. In fact, we become accustomed to peace-building behaviour when we learn to respect those who are close to us, when we train ourselves to resolve conflicts peacefully between people who live together and when we foster gestures of forgiveness which dispel aggressive attitudes. Therefore parents have an invaluable role to play in creating a harmonious family atmosphere, favourable to helping young people to mature, and to put in their hearts the desire to seek peace despite everything.

Movements like yours are invaluable. They make people sensitive to any violence which destroys harmony between individuals, within creation. They take part in training consciences so that in the relations between individuals and peoples, justice and the quest for the common good, the foundations of lasting peace may be victorious (cf. Centesimus annus, n. 5; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summ. Theol. II-II, q. 29, a. 2, ad 3; Catechism of the Catholic Church, nn. 2302-2317).

8. During the days just before Pentecost, we meditate on the first Christian community gathered with the Virgin Mary. In prayer it received the gift of peace, which is part of the Church's evangelizing mission (cf. Message for World Day of Peace, 1990).

With St. Paul, I urge you: "Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the equipment of the Gospel of peace" (Eph 6:14-15). It is with these sentiments that I bless you with all my heart, you and all the members of the Pax Christi movement you represent, so that through your words and your life the world may recognize that peace is a gift of God and that peace is possible for the world, in Christ, our definitive Pasch and peace.

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