The Culture of Peace

Study Examines Role of John Paul II

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ROME, JULY 23, 2005 ( A book published this year analyzes the contribution made by Pope John Paul II to the culture of peace. «Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and the Culture of Peace» was written by Bernard O’Connor, a priest from the Diocese of Antigonish, in Nova Scotia, who now works in the Vatican’s Congregation for Eastern Churches.

The book includes a selection of addresses to the diplomatic corps as well as speeches to ambassadors and the United Nations. The material is divided into four chapters, each preceded by an introduction in which Father O’Connor outlines what he sees as the main contributions to the culture of peace contained in the documents. The book finishes with an essay by the priest on John Paul II’s role in international diplomacy.

In the introduction Father O’Connor notes that John Paul II used the phrase «culture of peace» constantly in his speeches on international matters. This reflected «the Pope’s conviction that the diplomatic process is inherently capable of reinforcing the deepest aspirations of mankind.»

But it is not an abstract ideal. Rather, this peace is a consequence of humanity’s efforts to promote global community and solidarity. The pillars of this community are cooperation, dialogue, reciprocity, and commitment to the irreplaceable dignity of all persons.

The introduction to each chapter lists a number of traits of the culture of peace contained in the documents. In the first chapter, containing the addresses to the diplomatic corps, they are:

— A natural courtesy. The messages always begin with a greeting and contain expressions of gratitude.

— A disciplined challenge. John Paul II warns diplomats that the dialogue for peace is not easy and is analogous to the biblical merchants search for fine pearls.

— Transformation of the will. Security comes from choices born of the will. The culture of peace asks that the will be guided by rationality.

— A thirst for freedom. The evolution toward freedom is not something automatic. Freedom is linked to truth and justice.

— Resisting the temptation to abandon hope. We should not despair. The culture of peace is witness to mankind’s capacity to comfort sorrow and to relieve pain.

— Attention to moral responsibility. The state has moral obligations toward the culture of peace: openness in administration; impartiality; just and honest use of public funds; the rejection of illicit means. The culture of peace does not accept a utilitarian philosophy that allows any means to be used, or ignores the intrinsic worth of persons.

— The rule of law. Law gives each person his due and what is owed in justice.

— Receptive to the benefits offered by religion. The Pope rejected efforts to confine churches within the religious sphere alone. Religion has a gift to make to social development.

— Structuring priorities. Humanity’s dilemmas are no excuse for passivity. Humanity must face up to its problems and use its resources to overcome obstacles.

— Ensuring dialogue. Governments need to have structures that allow for dialogue with communities of believers. The appeal to dialogue, together with the formal means to implement it are crucial to the Pope’s perspective on peace.


The chapter containing speeches to ambassadors who presented their credentials contains a further selection of traits, namely:

— Constructive reciprocity. This reciprocity is conceived of as a forum in which states inform each other of their needs and preoccupations. It is also a forum in which endeavors can be made to improve the world.

— Solidarity and responsibility. This involves an ethical commitment to those in need. There is an obligation to counter the internal and external threats to the dignity of man.

— Updating an inherited outlook. The concept of human rights is old, but needs to be revised in the light of current problems, in particular the need to establish a juridical order that can regulate international matters.

— Accepting people. International aid should not overlook the way a country wants to safeguard the wishes of its people. What is intrinsic to a people’s identity must not be attacked or obliterated.

— Pluralism. A state’s non-confessional position and the guarantee of religious freedom for its citizens does not exclude agreements with the Holy See on specific questions.

— A humanistic spirit in foreign policy. The Pope commends tolerance and generosity. The culture of peace needs to be aware of the common good and attentive to the needs of minorities and those in economic need.

— A climate of trust. The resolution of problems flows not only from the process of dialogue, but from the trust that imbues that dialogue. The delicate balance between the spiritual and secular realms can be maintained when trust is present.

— Crucial and profound questions. A culture of peace disdains the unexamined life and invites the international community to probe questions such as the distribution of resources, human solidarity, and the vision that underlies political programs and policies.

— Refusing coercion. The state must never apply coercion to implement its agenda, whether in religious questions or areas such as relations with poorer countries in matters such as payment of debt.

— Repeating key concepts. The papal addresses to ambassadors often repeat key subjects, such as dialogue, the common good, cooperation and reconciliation. The repetition allows listeners to perceive the richness contained in the concepts, and provides an opportunity to add additional details and applications.

At United Nations

The third chapter of the book collects John Paul II’s two speeches made before the U.N. General Assembly, and also some addresses to conferences of U.N. organizations. Father O’Connor finds these themes in this material:

— Doing away with the possibility of provoking war. The 1979 address delineates ways in which war can be prevented. The Pope urged the General Assembly to discover and eliminate the roots of hatred, destructiveness and contempt. Moreover, the United Nations must analyze the tensions that damage human rights.

— A commitment to peace. A commitment to freedom, solidarity and peace involves taking a risk. The risk of conquering fear, of embracing the weak and the suffering and of awakening the soul to the civilization of love.

— Education. Culture is vital for mankind, since it is a specific way of our existing and being and determines the social character of our existence. The essential role of culture is to educate, enabling us to be more and not just to have more. As well, the task in a culture of peace is both to moderate and regulate all that would debase human nature.

— The resources of the earth. The Pope expressed his concern for the plight of the hungry. Within the culture of peace there should be attention to humanity’s stewardship of creation, to ensure a correct use of resources.

— Globalization. The global dimension of the interdependence between states requires new ways of thinking and cooperation. States should also sponsor development on levels that go beyond economics and technology.

Diplomatic community

The last chapter collects some speeches made by John Paul II to members of the diplomatic community on his overseas trips. They reveal the following traits:

— Rapprochement of peoples. This involves healing wounds between states and requires world leaders to be grounded in convictions and principles.

— Fraternal love. Charity and equality are at the heart of Catholic doctrine and only love can make peoples really responsive to the call of the needy.

— Valuing each other’s qualities. Diplomats should make the effort to comprehend the aspirations, needs and achievements of their partners in dialogue and collaboration.

— The language of destiny. Diplomacy enables nations to realize their destiny, and not just to accept an inevitable fate.

— Imperialism. Today’s modern imperialism worships money, ideology, class and technology. The culture of peace, by contrast, affirms the universality of humanity.

Readers will find John Paul II’s spirit alive and well in his legacy of teaching.

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