Fight Against Terrorism Is OK If It Respects Morality and Law, Pope Says

In Landmark Message

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2001 ( Assailing terrorism as a “crime against humanity,” John Paul II in his message for World Day of Peace also cautions that the struggle against terrorists “must be exercised with respect for moral and legal limits.”

In a landmark text on terrorism and the Christian response to it, the Pope highlights society´s right to defend itself against terrorist groups. Yet he warns that the response must foster authentic reconciliation among peoples.

“Terrorism springs from hatred, and it generates isolation, mistrust and closure,” the Pope writes in the message published today in advance of the Jan. 1 Day of Peace.

“Violence is added to violence in a tragic sequence that exasperates successive generations, each one inheriting the hatred which divided those that went before,” he observes.

To break the spiral of violence, John Paul II offers two fundamental proposals: a just response to attacks, and reconciliation among peoples.

“There exists, therefore, a right to defend oneself against terrorism, a right which, as always, must be exercised with respect for moral and legal limits in the choice of end and means,” the Holy Father emphasizes.

“The guilty must be correctly identified, since criminal culpability is always personal and cannot be extended to the nation, ethnic group, or religion to which the terrorists may belong,” he states.

But the response to terrorism, he insists, not only must address the consequences but also the fertile ground in which it arises.

“International cooperation in the fight against terrorist activities must also include a courageous and resolute political, diplomatic and economic commitment to relieving situations of oppression and marginalization which facilitate the designs of terrorists,” the Pope continues.

In fact, the “recruitment of terrorists is easier in situations where rights are trampled upon and injustices tolerated over a long period of time.”

The Holy Father asserts, however, that “the injustices existing in the world can never be used to excuse acts of terrorism.”

The first victims “of the radical breakdown of order, which terrorism seeks to achieve, include, above all, the countless millions of men and women who are least well-positioned to withstand a collapse of international solidarity,” he observes.

John Paul II refers specifically to “the people of the developing world, who already live on a thin margin of survival and who would be most grievously affected by global economic and political chaos.”

He concludes: “The terrorist claim to be acting on behalf of the poor is a patent falsehood.”

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