By Jonathan Leibl, Catholic News Agency
[Vatican City – CNA] – The global community is engaged in a “third world war” marked by heightened fear, conflict, and risk of nuclear violence, but a recommitment to “truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom” can provide a pathway to peace, Pope Francis told international diplomats Monday.
Citing the ongoing war in Ukraine but also drawing on conflicts in places such as Syria, West Africa, Ethiopia, Israel, Myanmar, and the Korean Peninsula, the Holy Father said this global struggle is being “fought piecemeal” but is nonetheless interconnected.
“Today the third world war is taking place in a globalized world where conflicts involve only certain areas of the planet direct, but in fact involve them all,” said Pope Francis, speaking in the Vatican’s apostolic palace.
The pope made these remarks as part of his annual address to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Pope Francis characterized this speech as “a call for peace in a world that is witnessing heightened divisions and war.”
As part of this heightening of tensions, the pope warned about the increased threat of nuclear warfare, drawing particular concern to the stall in negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal. He told the gathered diplomats that the possession of nuclear weapons is “immoral” and called for an end to a mentality that pursues conflict deterrence through the development of ever-more lethal means of warfare.
“There is a need to change this way of thinking and move toward an integral disarmament, since no peace is possible when instruments of death are proliferating,” the pope said.
In proposing a path toward global peace, the Holy Father drew heavily from Pacem in Terris (“Peace on Earth”), the papal encyclical promulgated by St. John XXIII in 1962. Pope Francis said the conditions that prompted the “good pope” to issue Pacem in Terris 60 years ago bear a striking similarity to the state of the world today.
In particular, the Holy Father drew from what John XXIII described as the “four fundamental goods” necessary for peace: truth, justice, solidarity, and freedom, values that “serve as the pillars that regulate relationships between individuals and political communities alike.”
Regarding “peace in truth,” the Holy Father underscored the “primary duty” of governments to protect the right to life at every stage of human life.
“Peace requires before all else the defence of life, a good that today is jeopardized not only by conflicts, hunger, and diseases, but all too often in the mother’s womb, through promotion of an alleged ‘right to abortion,’” said Pope Francis, also calling for an end to the death penalty and violence against women.
Speaking of the necessity of religious freedom for peace, the Holy Father noted not only widespread religious persecution against Christian minorities but also discrimination in countries where Christianity is a majority religion.
“Religious freedom is also endangered wherever believers see their ability to express their convictions in the life of society restricted in the name of a misguided understanding of inclusiveness,” he said.
Regarding justice, the Holy Father called for a “profound rethinking” of multilateral systems such as the United Nations to make them more effective at responding to conflicts like the war in Ukraine. But he also criticized international bodies for “imposing forms of ideological colonization, especially on poorer countries” and warned of the growing risk of “ideological totalitarianism” that promotes intolerance toward those who dissent from certain positions claimed to represent ‘progress.’”
The Holy Father also spoke of the need to deepen a sense of global solidarity, citing four areas of inter-connectedness: immigration, the economy and work, and care for creation.
“The paths of peace are paths of solidarity, for no one can be saved alone. We live in a world interconnected that, in the end, the actions of each have consequences for all.”