Vatican Address on 60th Anniversary of End of World War II

Observer Says Peace Possible Only if We Respect Life

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NEW YORK, MAY 10, 2005 ( Here is the statement of the Vatican on the anniversary of the end of World War II delivered Monday by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, to the General Assembly.

The assembly dedicated May 8-9 as days of remembrance and reconciliation in commemoration of the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II.

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Mr. President,

The Holy See is grateful to the sponsors of Resolution 59/26 for this opportunity to mark officially the 60th sixtieth anniversary of the end of the Second World War. There is no doubt that it was a terrible conflict, and it is both salutary and sobering to recall that it was the worst of several unnecessary, man-made global catastrophes that made the 20th century one of the most bitter that humanity has ever known.

My delegation salutes the declaration by the United Nations which sets aside May 8-9 as days of remembrance and reconciliation. Many voices rightly admonish us not to forget, but such voices do not place guilt at the door of today’s generations; they demand responsibility, reinforced by a knowledge of the mistakes of the past, and responsibility in view of these previous catastrophes requires us to develop some considerations.

First of all, among the roots of the Second World War was the exaltation of state and race, and the proud self-sufficiency of humanity based upon the manipulation of science, technology and force. The rule of law was no longer a vehicle for the application of justice, teaching us that, when man loses sight of his transcendent aspirations, he quickly reduces himself and others to an object, a number and even a mere commodity.

Secondly, even if we accept that, under some circumstances, a limited and strictly conditioned use of force could be inevitable in order to fulfill the responsibility to protect of every state and of the international community, we are called to be realistic enough to recognize that peaceful resolutions are possible and no effort should be spared in achieving them.

Humanity has long pondered the morality of war and the ethical conduct of combatants. The secretary-general’s report “In Larger Freedom” urges the Security Council to adopt a resolution on the legitimacy and legality of the use of force. Recognition of the tragic and devastating nature of war, and the common responsibility for past and present conflicts, press us to question not only whether war can be legal and legitimate, but above all whether it is avoidable. For this reason, the different chapters of the secretary-general’s report should be treated as an ensemble. Global peace and security will be achieved only if the international community respects human life and dignity, and is committed to the social and economic development of every country and every man, woman and child.

Thirdly, the Second World War, as with all the wars of the 20th century, illustrates how war termination policies and post war operational planning are essential to the aim of restoring justice and peace and of protecting. In the past, much attention was rightly paid to the “ius ad bellum,” that is the necessary conditions for justifying the use of force, and to the “ius in bello,” the legal parameters of ethical behavior during war. In the light of the material and moral devastations of World War II and the nature of war since, the time has now come to focus on and develop a third dimension of the law of war, that of the “ius post bellum,” or how to achieve quickly and effectively the establishment of a just and lasting peace, which is the only admissible goal for the use of force.

Thus, the existing international legal instruments covering conduct and activities after war need to be reinforced and extended with reference to our rapidly changing times, while also taking into consideration the ethical parameters that the modern conscience and sensitivities have developed, such as reconciliation, to help all the parties involved re-knit bonds of friendship and neighborliness; assurance of the security and stabilization of nations emerging from war; international solidarity in the process of socioeconomic reconstruction of the fabric of those societies; restoration of the environment after fighting has ceased; and justice at every level, since, if force has been employed for justice’s sake, justice must surely influence every aspect of the peace-building process.

Fourth, recently, new emphasis has been placed upon the role of the UN as a peace-builder. The Holy See shares the secretary-general’s concern that the United Nations system fully address the challenge of helping countries with the transition from war to lasting peace, and once again expresses full support for the creation of an intergovernmental peace-building commission.

This commemoration, therefore, is a welcome reminder of the very “raison d’être” of the United Nations. Although nowadays it exercises its functions in a broad variety of fields, these activities should not distract us from the “sine qua non” of this organization’s existence, that is, peace among nations.

Thank you, Mr President

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