The Contribution of the Holy See to World Peace

Author: Archbishop H. E. Cardinale


Archbishop H. E. Cardinale

(Adapted from an address given by the Apostolic Delegate to the United Kingdom, Archbishop H. E. Cardinale, at Boston College, March 27, 1968; and reprinted in the Congressional Record, Washington, D.C.)

Although I am a papal representative and an archbishop, I am not speaking here in any official capacity. The views I shall express are the result of my personal experience and reflection in my 27 years of service of the Holy See. I shall concentrate on the Pontficates of Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI who have raised the Holy See to a point of influence which might have seemed unattainable 30 years ago. My theme will be concerned with the work accomplished by the Holy See in the interests of world peace in three different areas of the international order: political, social-economic and religious. Such a division is based on the assumption that three main ways lead to the attainment and maintenance of peace: Diplomacy, Development and Ecumenism.

Diplomacy aims at persuading nations to live together and to collaborate for their own good and that of all mankind; development purposes to convince those-who-have to assist those-who-have-not in reaching a stage of reasonable prosperity; ecumenism strives to induce the Churches to overcome their differences in a spirit of charity and truth so as to fulfill God's will of unity of faith and order. It is obvious that the achievement of such aims contributes to the establishment and preservation of peace in the world. It is reassuring to know that at a time when mankind is undergoing such a testing crisis, the Holy See is exerting herself to the best of her ability to improve the state of the world peace through tireless efforts in the three areas mentioned.

The first—Way of peace lies in the area of diplomacy

Diplomacy which tends ultimately to secure the reconciliation and unification of the world through the prosperous growth of individual states in the harmonious concert of nations cannot help but involve the attention of the Holy See and call for her collaboration. After the old relationship between Papacy and Empire was ruled out by the rise of nation-states, diplomacy became the accepted medium of communication between Church and State, and has proved itself a valid instrument in dealing with a divided world.

While the ultimate end of Papal diplomacy aims at establishing the Kingdom of God among men by safeguarding the practice of the faith where it already exists and extending the knowledge of it where it is weak or absent, it has cut its own course quite independently from the well-marked road of civil diplomacy. But because it agrees with that diplomacy in its broadest outlines and essential function, it has left its imprint on it by orienting and strengthening it in the pursuit of peaceful and brotherly relations, based on justice and charity as prerequisites of international harmony and peace.

Papal diplomacy employs its efforts for peace not only in the specific area of political relations with and between nations, but also in those of development and ecumenism. Papal representatives abroad are charged in a special way with a mission of peace, at once political, social and religious. It is their duty to set in operation, in the interests of peace, the whole machinery of the Church in their respective areas, through episcopal conferences, the clergy and the faithful. Here then is a body of 600 million Catholics in array willing to help the nations, the needy, and the Churches to find that peace which must guide mankind to the achievement of its supreme destinies.

The second—Way to peace lies in the area of development

Before the First World War countries known as colonies were considered mainly as objects of exploitation. Little effort was made to elevate their standard of life while the prospect of an independent status was a far way off. Two world wars have brought peoples closer to one another. Countries which were not yet independent made a notable contribution in manpower and natural resources in the triumph of justice and freedom. All this called for gratitude, which was based on a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the true cultural values and potentialities of these ancient peoples.

Since World War II the industrial countries have become increasingly richer, to the point that one-fourth of the world's population now owns more than three-fourths of the world's wealth. This means that three-quarters of mankind must live on less than one-quarter of the world's wealth. The differences entailed by such an imbalance are divisive so much so that the poor countries are kept at a safe distance and confined to a group which is well-distinguished from the world of the privileged by the title: Third World.

The Church, well aware of this state, is also aware of her duty to assist—and at long last, she has placed herself in the forefront of the war on moral and material want. She is now engaged in a great campaign directed at awakening the awareness of all men, as individuals and as national groups, to the problems of assistance and development of the world in need and to stimulate them to responsible action!

The third—Way of peace lies in the area of ecumenism

The problem of Christian unity has been the object of much Catholic ecclesiological study from Vatican I to our times. Justice can be done to the Catholic Church only if her former attitude (a kind of absence from the ecumenical scene) is considered in relation to the attitudes of other Christians in the past. Non-Catholics approach the problem of unity today in a manner which is substantially different from that of a time when typical Protestant liberalism and pragmatism permeated and inspired much of the thinking behind the ecumenical movement. The Church could not overlook fundamental questions concerning Christian doctrine and the very structure of the Church for the sake of a union which was more in the nature of syncretism and confusion. She did however appreciate the evangelical aims which inspired the movement and cooperated with Protestants in various social activities of a social, moral and political character, such as "The Sword of the Spirit," in England during World War II, the "Christian Community Group" in India in 1940, Trade Unionism and other associations. In two encyclicals--"Caritate Christi" and "Divini Redemptoris"--Pope Pius XI called for such cooperation in the face of spreading social evils and dangers.

This cooperation paved the way towards a closer relationship which gradually brought the Church into the orbit of the ecumenical movement. Vatican II has brought the Catholic Church to recognize in other Churches the presence, in varying measures, of most significant endowments which come from Christ and lead back to him. They derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted by Christ to the Catholic Church. Hence they constitute the basis of a communion which significantly, although still imperfectly, binds other Churches to her in Christ. The Catholic Church has also acquired a deeper realization of her own responsibility to be a more perfect embodiment of the divine-human society founded by Christ, and of the need to purify, widen and develop herself in such a way as to be able to embrace in unity, though not in uniformity, all those Christian Churches and Communities which long for the restoration of unity according to the will of Christ.

What really is the relevance of ecumenism to the question of world peace? It is very great. Pope Paul said: "Ecumenism is a good work for peace and unity." The Anglican-Catholic common declaration (March 24, 1966) expressed the hope "that with progress towards unity there may be a strengthening of peace in the world."

The ideal of Christianity is, of course, the "peace of Christ in the Kingdom of Christ" established in the whole world. But the advent of this kingdom is gradual and it cannot be accelerated with human weapons. It is necessary to find a basis on which peacefully to live and collaborate with that part of mankind which either reject Christ or the very concept of God as well as with those Christians who differ from us in their acceptance and interpretation of the doctrine of Christ. The aim of the ecumenical movement, however, is to go far beyond that goal of peaceful coexistence, when Christians are concerned. It strives to recompose that organic unity of all the true followers of Christ, so that God's sanctifying will may be fulfilled and there may be a truer witness to Christ, who is "the Lord of Peace." (2 Thess. 3.16).

Ecumenism inspires men to work together for the common good of all mankind, and the bond which unites Christians is expressed more vividly in the common service of the world. In recognition of this Catholics have been urged by recent Pontiffs and Vatican II to collaborate more and more with others, in the diverse fields of human activity, at home and abroad, and especially in regions "where a social and technical evolution is taking place" such as the developing areas. Such cooperation among Christians is encouraged by the Decree on Ecumenism, in that it contributes to a just appreciation of the dignity of the human person, the advancement of humane social conditions, and the promotion of peace throughout the world.

Congressional Record: E 3649 to 3654,

May 2, 1968

Taken from:
L'Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
13 June 1968, page 3

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