Cardinal Martino on "Reconciliation and Peace" (Part 2)

Vatican Official’s Address in Tanzania

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KIGOMA, Tanzania, SEPT. 22, 2005 ( Here is conclusion of the text of an address given by Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, on the theme «Reconciliation and Peace.»

He gave the address at a meeting of Church representatives from Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda and Congo on July 18. The text was recently released by the Catholic Information Service for Africa. Part 1 appeared Tuesday.

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Some Requirements for Consolidating Peace

To oppose the culture of violence, it is necessary to promote the cultivation of a terrain suitable for peace, in which peace can take root. In fact, it is necessary to find the ways and the means for making peace grow and for consolidating it. I would like to specify the ethical and cultural factors that make it possible not only to verify whether true peace is present or not, but that also contribute to making it stronger and to helping it to grow.

a) Peace is strengthened when it is respected

The antithesis of peace is war, injustice, the violation of human rights, contempt for life. When respect for life is lacking it is legitimate to declare that we find ourselves truly at war. Therefore, in her actions aimed at promoting peace, the Church correctly places much emphasis on defending human life and on pointing out the contradictions of our culture. In fact, the attitudes that mankind adopts today concerning both life and sexuality reveal themselves to be strange and contradictory: on the one hand, there is the insistent quest for «quality of life» while at the same time we are witnessing numerous and sundry acts of violence that put it seriously at risk. Life, new life, is ardently desired: in cases of untreatable sterility, great sacrifices are made to have «a child at all costs» and, at the same time, there exists, and it is widespread, a «fear of life,» as can be seen in the use of various methods of contraception, in recourse to abortion and abortifacient drugs. According to trustworthy estimates, millions of abortions are performed in the world every year. The massacre of innocent victims is comparable to a war. Until there is effective opposition to a situation such as this, how can we speak of peace?

In order to speak of peace or to work for peace, it is essential that the good news of God’s plan for human life should be proclaimed. The human person is the image of God and a new creature in Christ: human life is always, from its beginning at conception, a gift of God and is therefore inviolable. It belongs to God and God is its guarantor. From this Christian perspective — which, however, can be grasped by any person, even if he is not a great thinker — there arises the firm condemnation of abortion and of the abuses of genetics and of the techniques of in vitro fertilization, as well as the condemnation of every violation committed against the lives of minors, women and the emarginated.

Even as it declines, human life retains all its significance and value. Suffering and death, seen in Jesus Christ who is one with human suffering and death, takes on a significance that needs to be understood if we are to spread a «culture of life.» Sharing pain, humanizing sickness, accompanying the dying with sincere and deeply felt empathy, resolutely rejecting every temptation of euthanasia: these are the duties that arise from the Christian perspective of the value of every human life, from its beginning until its end.

These are inescapable duties for peace-makers. Peace is found and is strengthened when the command «thou shalt not kill» is accepted without any attempt to gloss over it. I believe that, in order to consolidate peace, it is urgently necessary today to rethink — in more radical terms and without exaggerated rationalization — the command «thou shalt not kill,» under its negative aspects, and the command «promote life», seeing them as fundamental values that are to be defended, assisted, guaranteed on every front. Believers who, out of fidelity to the Lord of life, reject abortion, the arbitrary manipulation of life and the pseudo-justifications for procedures of euthanasia, have the duty to defend life on all its fronts and to be sensitive to the quality of life and death. They must be particularly attentive in order to call into question and to refute those who hold positions that support unjust, oppressive and manipulative elements and situations that hinder, alter or diminish the fullness and the harmony of life. The best defense of life consists in putting into practice social, structural and cultural conditions that will allow each person to live an authentically human life and, consequently, to die in a manner which does not violate human dignity.

b) Peace is consolidated when justice is affirmed

Justice is the matrix for peace. Peace, a great and stable peace that reflects the peace of Christ on earth, is not «the child of anyone» but is in fact generated by justice. In the first place it is born and consolidated in a manner directly proportional to the affirmation and consolidation of justice.

What is justice? How has it been understood? What kind of justice is needed today to deal with the «res novae,» the new situations, and to gather up the challenges that these new situations place before believers?

For a long time, a contractual and interpersonal justice has had the privilege of being seen as perfect justice: you have given me so much, and I owe you so much, according to a calculation of giving and possessing that is rigorously quantifiable and that can be imposed in terms of law; the balance and the sword are the symbols of this justice. People have also spoken of legal justice, that is, the recognition of rights to be respected and of services to be offered to the community according to terms specified by law. But human law does not always recognize every right and is even less successful in precisely determining what each citizen is to give to the state, taking into account the differences between citizens.

The horizon of justice has opened progressively to distributive justice, to social justice and, finally, to planetary justice. There will be no peace until worldwide justice is achieved. As long as inhuman and dehumanizing situations remain, it is absurd to speak of peace; more than a billion people live in conditions of absolute poverty; every year, 13 to 18 million human beings die of hunger; 800 million people are chronically and visibly undernourished; developing countries are expected to pay many billions of dollars in interest for debts contracted with affluent countries. Africa is the continent where these problems are most worrisome and, therefore, Africa has need of a greater commitment on the part of the international community. It is for this reason that in May of 2004 the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace organized a seminar with the leading experts on African issues, with the Ambassadors of African nations to the Holy See and with the African Cardinals to discuss solutions to this human drama.

An adequately understood justice will force us to rethink these situations in a new manner. In this regard, the great and recently deceased Pope John Paul II, in his Message for the 2003 World Day of Peace, underlined the indissoluble link between the commitment to peace and the respect of promises that have been made: «pacta sunt servanda.» The Holy Father emphasized above all the need to fulfill the pledges made to the poor: «Especially frustrating for them is any breach of faith regarding promises which they see as vital to their well-being. In this respect, the failure to keep commitments in the sphere of aid to developing nations is a serious moral question and further highlights the injustice of the imbalances existing in the world. The suffering caused by poverty is compounded by the loss of trust. The end result is hopelessness. The existence of trust i
n international relations is a social capital of fundamental value» (No. 8).

Judging this state of affairs according to the logic of social and planetary justice, strongly emphasized in «Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,» it seems necessary to state that rich countries are in duty bound to consolidate a more decisive international cooperation according to the perspective outlined by the Millennium Declaration of the United Nations and by the successive World Conferences and Summits, in which a different course was laid out, a course that was more human and more humanizing, also in the area of economic relations and international commercial relations.

Everything is becoming globalized. A global dimension must be given, above all, to the requirements of justice. There exist even today, within the affluent areas of the world, large swaths of emarginated and poor people, but the most serious and dramatic problems of justice are found at the global level, among people who do not have the minimum needed to live and peoples who are drowning in abundance. Ours, then, is an epoch dominated by problems of a planetary dimension, which require answers and solutions at a planetary level.

c) Peace is consolidated by solidarity

From a Gospel perspective, solidarity is the social incarnation of charity, of love, of Christian agape. It takes on many different forms: the first is the respect of others and their rights. Justice is therefore the first step to take in showing solidarity. There is no love if the rights of individuals and of groups are not recognized.

But justice is not enough: love also entails dialogue. Man lives and grows in dialogue, from the fundamental form of dialogue with God to that with other men. Dialogue permits the person to participate in the situation of his neighbor and at the same time to grow in his understanding of others and of himself, and to lend assistance to the people he meets in life. Thus, rather than potential antagonism, diversity can become a source of enrichment and growth.

Solidarity therefore requires the acceptance of diversity. In a world characterized by widespread patterns of migration and by a formidable exchange between cultures that, everyday more and more, are becoming multi-racial, this requirement of love becomes a priority. It is not easy to accept, understand, show solidarity with those who are different — because of skin color, or because of cultural or tribal origins — and who are in difficulty.

In particular, when understood in the terms proposed by «Sollicitudo Rei Socialis,» solidarity is not easy, and this is true whether we are speaking of solidarity between individuals or between peoples. Solidarity is much more than a sentiment of vague compassion. «It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say to the good of all and of each individual, because we are all really responsible for all.» Showing solidarity today means being aware of the interdependence between peoples and nations and transforming it from something that is ambivalent or negative to something that is positive. It means opposing the structures of sin forcefully and effectively.

«In this way,» John Paul II affirmed, «solidarity … is the path to peace and at the same time to development. For world peace is inconceivable unless the world’s leaders come to recognize that interdependence in itself demands … the sacrifice of all forms of economic, military or political imperialism, and the transformation of mutual distrust into collaboration. This is precisely the act proper to solidarity among individuals and nations.» As is well known, for John Paul II peace is the fruit of solidarity: «opus solidaritatis pax.»


In considering the narrow and difficult paths that Africa must embark upon, particularly in the region of the Great Lakes, if it is to rediscover the reasons for a regional peace, I believe that a surprising stimulus can be found in what Pope John XXIII, in his encyclical «Pacem in Terris,» considers the pillars of peace, pillars that could become the inspirational basis of a determined program of civil and political renewal for each country and the whole region: truth, justice, love and freedom. «Truth will build peace if every individual sincerely acknowledges not only his rights, but also his own duties towards others. Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfils his duties towards them. Love will build peace if people feel the needs of others as their own and share what they have with others, especially the values of mind and spirit which they possess. Freedom will build peace and make it thrive if, in the choice of the means to that end, people act according to reason and assume responsibility for their own actions.»

This is an immense undertaking: such an immense undertaking, entrusted to people of good will, is precisely that of «establishing with truth, justice, charity, and liberty new methods of relationships in human society.» Establishing, or we could say bringing or putting together, which, in the Greek etymology, becomes quite striking: «syn-ballon,» or «symbol,» a term that reminds us of sacrament and, sadly, its opposite, «dia-ballon,» devil, the one who divides. This effort aimed at bringing together and at reconciliation through cultural mediation, civil dialogue and open exchanges is to be lived as a method of being and making a sacrament, that is, of incarnating Christ here and now, Christ who is alive and active in the Church; it means seeking to express his love and his charity.

Cardinal Renato R. Martino
President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace

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