Historian Calls Pope´s Message of Peace "Innovative"

Forgiveness Signals Big Leap in Reflection on Peace, Giorgio Rumi Says

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ROME, DEC. 12, 2001 (ZENIT.orgAvvenire).- Italian historian Giorgio Rumi says that John Paul II´s message for the forthcoming World Day of Peace introduces the decisive element of forgiveness in reflecting on war and peace.

In this interview, the Osservatore Romano columnist analyzes the text of the message, which was published Tuesday and is entitled “No Peace Without Justice, No Justice Without Forgiveness,” a topic that Rumi describes as a “retort to the logic of the violent.”

–Q: How do you regard the Pope´s statements on terrorism?

–Rumi: They are valuable. They respond to a need of the intellectual order: Uncertainty and confusion have led some to hastily concede mitigating circumstances to the violent.

–Q: What does the Pope´s message say?

–Rumi: No injustice will ever legitimize terrorism. The Pope asks us to address the causes of this terrible phenomenon. He reminds us that it is necessary to use political, diplomatic and economic action in situations of marginalization and oppression, which might be at the root of terrorist plans.

However, the condemnation is clear, absolute: In no case, Wojtyla says, can justice justify this violence, which injures human dignity and strikes the innocent.

–Q: What significance does this message have in the papal magisterium on peace, war and peoples´ rights?

–Rumi: Not only is it an important message but, above all, it is innovative. I speak as a scholar. I cannot think of another papal text that is so elevated.

–Q: Where is the innovation that so impresses you?

–Rumi: I remember Benedict XV´s message to the heads of belligerent nations in 1917, or Pius XII´s radio-messages and his consistent diplomatic action. We see how at that time the awareness of the relation between justice and peace was awakening and maturing.

Hence, peace is not simply tranquility, or the preservation of order. The Pope is not a policeman of the established order. Peace and justice called for a creative posture. However, John Paul II now offers, literally, a new level, an ulterior dimension: forgiveness.

–Q: In speaking of forgiveness, it would seem that all might remain in beautiful words.

–Rumi: Be careful: Wojtyla is not expressing a “cry,” but rounds off the reasoning.

The Pope is not calling for a resigned peace, the acceptance of a lesser evil. He does not ask that justice be given up.

On the contrary, he forcefully asks for the restoration of an injured right. However, he reminds us that, in order to be complete, certain and irreversible, justice must be raised to the perfection of forgiveness.

–Q: The Pope speaks of an ethic and a culture of forgiveness; he even extends it to social positions and juridical institutes. Is it utopian?

–Rumi: No. It demonstrates that this message is religious without being “clerical”; it is not rhetorical, but is inspired in intelligent realism. Moreover, it posits responsibility.

The Pope clarifies the religious foundation of forgiveness, but he does not stop at the enunciation of a principle. He asks that it be incarnated in history, in personal and collective life, both in the family as well as at work, and on the international political scene.

He addresses political and religious leaders, but also each one of us. He points out a gradual road, and the goals to be attained. However, he is not “clerical,” because he does not try to give us specific solutions.

–Q: The Pope says that forgiveness “always entails an apparent loss in the short term, while it ensures a long-term gain.” How do you interpret this affirmation in the light of history?

–Rumi: If we think of Germany in 1945 we realize that it is like this. Following the war, there were those who wanted to annihilate Germany. There was a need for justice in the face of Nazism, which not only involved the ideology and regime but also the people.

It was wise to do justice by avoiding vengeance, but, at the same time, the people were trusted and, today, Germany is among the most civil and ethically “interesting” countries of the world.

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