The Ukraine War, Catholic Teaching, and the International Work for Peace
THE UKRAINE WAR
The war in Ukraine broke out in February 2022.
Three days after Russia began what it called a “special military operation” but what amounted to an invasion, Pope Francis said in his Sunday Angelus that “Those who wage war, those who provoke war, forget humanity.” (February 27, 2022)
Catholic social teaching reminds the faithful what the responsibility of the international community is toward world peace.
“If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene”.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY
In 1999, Pope St. John Paul II identified the need for the international community to actively intervene in human conflicts, despite the fact that issues of sovereignty might be involved:
“I call on the leaders of the Nations and on all people of good will to come to the aid of those involved…and to help them to bring these conflicts to an end.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 11)
A call strongly re-iterated by Pope Benedict XVI in (Caritas in Veritate).
Indeed, at the United Nations in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI made a direct and, perhaps, not fully appreciated call on the international community when he said: “Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene”.
And, this intervention “should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage.” (Meeting with the Members of the General Assembly of the United Nations)
POPE FRANCIS AND THE CALL FOR PEACE
Pope Francis has often called on the world to make and keep an international peace.
In September 2015 he said: “As I wrote in my letter to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 9 August 2014, ‘the most basic understanding of human dignity compels the international community, particularly through the norms and mechanisms of international law, to do all that it can to stop and to prevent further systematic violence against ethnic and religious minorities’ and to protect innocent peoples.” (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, September 25, 2015)
THE UKRAINE WAR AND INTERNATIONAL CHRISTIAN RESPONSE
The war in Ukraine must involve the international community.
In many of his televised appearances and his written words, Pope Francis has decried the “nightmare of war” and expressed deep sorrow for the people of Ukraine, urging “all the protagonists of international life and the political leaders of nations to do everything possible to bring an end to the war, without allowing themselves to be drawn into dangerous escalations, and to promote and support initiatives for dialogue.” (Pope Francis)
“I renew my appeal to the leaders of Nations: do not lead humanity in ruin, please! Do not lead humanity in ruin, please! Let true negotiations take place, real talks for a ceasefire and for a sustainable solution…Let us continue, please, to pray and to strive tirelessly for peace.” (Pope Francis)
PEACE BELONGS TO ALL
“Peace and prosperity, in fact, are goods which belong to the whole human race: it is not possible to enjoy them in a proper and lasting way if they are achieved and maintained at the cost of other peoples and nations.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 27)
“Concern for our neighbor transcends the confines of national communities and has increasingly broadened its horizon to the whole world.” (Pope Benedict XVI, 30)
“But now…the nightmare of war, which is the negation of God’s dream, has once again befallen humanity…And while the fury of destruction and death rampages and the conflicts rage on, fueling an escalation that is increasingly dangerous for all, let the desperate cry of the suffering people be heard…have respect for human life and stop the macabre destruction”. (Pope Francis)
Three Key Principles
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)
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