Seasoned Envoy Taking the Reins at Justice and Peace

Archbishop Martino Succeeds the Late Cardinal Nguyên Van Thuân

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VATICAN CITY, OCT. 1, 2002 ( Archbishop Renato Martino, the newly appointed president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, has spent 40 years working in assignments around the world, including the United Nations.

Named to the pontifical council by John Paul II today, the 69-year-old archbishop succeeds Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân, who died Sept. 16.

Over the past 16 years, Archbishop Martino has been Permanent Observer of the Vatican to the United Nations. He has participated in international conferences such as the 1992 meeting in Rio de Janeiro on sustainable development; the 1994 event in Cairo, on population and development; the 1995 summit in Beijing, on women; and the recent Johannesburg conference, also on sustainable development.

For the archbishop, the most memorable occasion over these years was John Paul II’s visit to the United Nations in October 1995.

After delivering his historic address, the Holy Father said to the archbishop as they were crossing a New York street: “I said it to them!”

“What did you say to them, Holiness?” Archbishop Martino asked.

“That Jesus Christ is our motivation,” the Pope answered. “It is what we try to do each day in our work” at the United Nations. The archbishop recounted that story in a ZENIT interview published Jan. 9, 2000.

Born in Salerno, Italy, Renato Martino holds a doctorate in canon law and has served in the diplomatic service of the Holy See since 1962. He has worked in Nicaragua, the Philippines, Lebanon, Canada and Brazil. He has also served as apostolic delegate to Singapore, Malaysia, Laos and Brunei, as well as apostolic pro-nuncio to Thailand and Singapore.

The small Catholic community in Laos still remembers him for the visits he made in small boats on dangerous rivers, encouraging the rebirth of the sorely persecuted local Church.

The archbishop has received four honorary doctorates and has been decorated by the governments of Italy, Portugal, Thailand, Argentina, Venezuela and Lebanon.

The Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was created by Paul VI in 1967 to “promote justice and peace in the world, in the light of the Gospel and of the social teaching of the Church,” as John Paul II reiterated in 1988.

The primary work of the council is to engage in action-oriented studies based on both the papal and episcopal social teaching of the Church. Through them, the council also contributes to the development of this teaching in the following vast fields:

–Justice. The council is concerned with all that touches upon social justice, the world of work, international life, development in general and social development in particular. It also promotes ethical reflection on the evolution of economic and financial systems and addresses problems related to the environment and the responsible use of the earth’s resources.

–Peace. The council reflects on a broad range of questions related to war, disarmament and the arms trade, international security, and violence in its various and ever-changing forms (such as terrorism and exaggerated nationalism). It also considers the question of political systems and the role of Catholics in the political arena. It is responsible for the promotion of the World Day of Peace.

–Human rights. The council deals with the subject from three perspectives: deepening the doctrinal aspect, dealing with questions under discussion in international organizations, and showing concern for the victims of human rights violations.

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