A Nation's Legitimate Self-Defense

Address by Cardinal Rubiano of Bogota

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VATICAN CITY, FEB. 3, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address of Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz, archbishop of Bogota, Colombia, during the videoconference of theologians organized last Wednesday by the Vatican Congregation for the Clergy (http://www.clerus.org). The theme of the videoconference was “Peace Challenged by War, Violence and Terrorism.”

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“A Nation’s Legitimate Self-Defense”
By Cardinal Pedro Rubiano Sáenz

Authority over a nation is legitimately exercised when it promotes and defends the commonwealth of its citizens; when it is concerned with the spiritual and human development of all; when it provides all that ensemble of political, social, cultural and economic conditions that allow the person and the community not only to satisfy their basic needs, but also to exercise all their acknowledged rights and fulfill their corresponding duties toward the member of society and the whole nation.

The mission of those invested with authority consists in ensuring, to the extent that this is possible, the good of society. Common good demands social order and a guarantee of those conditions that permit society’s growth and progress.

The commonwealth is the foundation for the legitimate defense of individuals and nations. In fact, when the commonwealth, the peace of a nation and the lives of its citizens are threatened by one of the many forms of violence, the authorities that have been legitimately elected have the right and the serious duty of preserving them.

Heads of states and those who have the responsibility of government are under the obligation of using morally permitted methods, including, when indispensable, the exercise of military strength so as to promote, protect and defend the fundamental rights of all those involved within the respect of human rights and international humanitarian law.

Military forces at the service of a nation represent a legitimate means for guaranteeing the freedom and security of populations and must always operate with responsibility so that their mission may contribute to safeguarding peace and the common good of the whole nation.

Peace and the commonwealth are now threatened by terrorist attacks all over the world. The legitimately elected authorities are obliged to take measures and dispositions to avoid attacks against peace and the commonwealth, punishing the protagonists and their accomplices, but always operating within the framework of justice and legality.

Following Pope John Paul II in his teachings, we state that “war is not the solution”; that the war declared by terrorism returns us to the issue of the exercising of legitimate defense, after a careful analysis of the causes that provoked this so as to make choices to avoid it. Furthermore, “just wars” should remain a heritage of the tragic past, of history; there should be no place for them in the future programs of mankind.

Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical “Evangelium Vitae” of March 25, 1995, defines legitimate defense within the perspective of a right to live and the obligation to preserve it within the framework of human rights.

Respect for life and the dignity of the person is fundamental for peace, which in turn demands truth, justice, love and freedom.

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