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Dialogue Between Peoples in the Name of Paul VI

Archbishop Gallagher’s Intervention at Brescia Meeting on 50th Anniversary of Pope’s UN Visit

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Here is a translation of the address of Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary of Relations with States, given this morning at Brescia in the course of a meeting entitled “Dialogue between Peoples in the Name of Paul VI,” organized on the 50th anniversary of the Blessed Pontiff’s visit to the United Nations General Assembly at New York.

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Mister Minister of Foreign Affairs,

Lord Mayor,

Excellency [Monsignor Luciano Monari]

Distinguished Civil and Military Authorities,


Ladies and Gentlemen.


I thank you first of all for the courteous invitation to take part in this “Dialogue between Peoples in the Name of Paul VI,” organized in the ambit of the celebrations of the Montini Year to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Blessed Pontiff’s historic visit to the United Nations.


A year and a few months after his accession to the throne of Peter, on August 6, 1964, Pope Paul VI published the Encyclical Ecclesiam Suam, in which he proposed a dialogue between the Church and the contemporary world as one of the foundations of his Pontificate. Moved by a profound love of the Church of Jesus Christ, loving Mother of all men and dispenser of salvation (Ecclesiam Suam, 1), Blessed Paul VI wished to clarify increasingly to one and all, on one hand, its importance for the salvation of human society, and on the other, how much the Church has at heart that both should meet, know one another, love one another (Idem, 4), namely, that they dialogue between them. This dialogue flows from the mutual love, which must then extend to all peoples.


The dialogue the Pope desired, however, was not a novelty. From her origins, the Church, willed by God as fundamental instrument of the dialogue between the Trinity and men, never ceased to dialogue with temporal realities. Being in the world without being of the world (cf. Ecclesiam Suam, 44, 51, 60, etc.; cf. John 17:15-16), the Church throughout the centuries has dialogued with the world to transform all realities in Jesus Christ through love and, through him, to bring all realities to the Father (cf. John 12:32 and Ephesians 1:10). However, that dialogue must be renewed and proposed again, in every historical moment, in response to the developments of history and to the expectations of peoples. Pope Montini also understood it thus, committing himself to active dialogue with the whole of reality and with all men, for the good of men and for the good of the Church herself (cf. Idem, n. 13.


Although recognizing that the actors of the Church-world dialogue are all members of the Church, Christian hierarchy and faithful, and that the field for dialogue with the world is the whole human reality (Ecclesiam Suam, 19-26), Paul VI proposed a dialogue between the Church and the modern world also as a particular personal vocation of his (Idem, 15), within which he assigned a fundamental place to the promotion of dialogue between peoples, to ensure peace and just human development. Pope Montini regarded the subject of peace as an imperative and urgent duty, put in evidence be it by doctrinal reflections on the role of the Church in the contemporary world, be it by the development of international institutions, reborn after the interruption caused by World War II, and grown rapidly in number and quality (Idem, 17). The Pope felt the urgency to contribute to the education of humanity to sentiments and procedures contrary to all violent and deadly conflict, and favorable to every civil and rational peaceful regulation of relations between nations. Therefore, at the same time he declared himself solicitous to assist, with the proclamation of higher human principles, which could be useful to temper egoisms and passions from which bellicose clashes stem, harmonious coexistence and fruitful collaboration between peoples (Idem). Moreover, following in the footsteps of preceding Pontificates, he said he was disposed to intervene, where the opportunity was offered, to help the contending parties to honorable and fraternal solutions (Idem). We must not forget, then, that in the background of this commitment for peace of Paul VI – and in contrast to it –, was the imminent threat of a total nuclear war, the unbridled arms race and the difficult, and at times tragic, “crises” of the Cold War, such as the construction of the Berlin Wall, the Cuban missile crisis, the beginning of the United States intervention in Vietnam and many other minor conflicts.


In face of the landscape of the contemporary world, Blessed Paul VI hoped that his desire to cultivate and perfect the Church’s dialogue with the world, would be useful to the cause of peace among men, imposing itself as a method, which seeks to regulate human relations in the noble light of reasonable and sincere language, and on the part of the Church, as a contribution of experience and of wisdom, which could revive in everyone the consideration of the supreme values. The opening of a dialogue … decides on its own in favor of a free and honest peace… Such an opening, therefore, cannot but denounce, as crime and ruin, a war of aggression, of conquest and of predominance; and cannot but extend itself from the relations to the summit of the nations and to those of the body of the nations themselves and to the bases, be they social, as well as family and individual (Ecclesiam Suam, 110).


The richness of the 15-year Pontificate of Blessed Paul VI is extraordinary. There were so many moments and decision that merited being described as epochal. Although signifying a great joy for the Church and the world, they were the fruit of an heroic commitment of the Pope, often marked by great sorrows of his soul. Rather than trying the impossible enterprise to summarize the whole Pontificate in this brief intervention, I would like to pause on some aspects related to the international activity of the Holy See, as part of that great commitment of dialogue with the world proposed by Pope Montini from the moment of his election.


In this connection, I wish to make some comments on two cardinal documents in this particular vision. The address to the United Nations of October 4, 2015, focused on peace, and the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, of March 26, 1967, which has development as its main topic. At the same time, I would like to highlight that the international action of the three subsequent Pontificates, of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis were developed following in total harmony and fidelity, the great lines traced by Pope Montini. It will be useful for this purpose to make reference to some moments of the international activity of the Holy See, which are manifestations and concretizations of the dialogue with the world desired by Paul VI.


A few days ago, last September 26, the Holy Father Francis began his address at the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, linking himself ideally to the first visit of one of his Predecessors and he also closed his address with the very words of Paul VI’s intervention at the UN, having mentioned first, in several passages of his address, the visits to the Crystal Palace of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Thus the Pope stressed the continuity in the addresses pointed out of Paul VI. In regard to the dialogue between States and the making of peace, Paul VI’s memorable message in 1965 can be synthesized in four purposeful points on the Organization itself: a) The UN offers States, as formula of peaceful coexistence, a sort of international citizenship, which is articulated in an ordered and stable system  of international life (Address to the United Nations General Assembly , October 4, 1965, 2); b) The Organization exists and operates to unite the Nations, to connect the States, to put one an
other together, without leaving anyone outside (Idem, 3); c) The UN must follow the formula of equality, that is, no State can be superior to the others (Idem , 4); d) The juridical pact that unites the UN Nations must be understood as a solemn oath that must change the future history of the world: no more war, no more war! Peace must guide the fate of Peoples and of the whole of humanity (Idem, 5).


However, Pope Montini added other points related to development and man’s dignity. 1st) peace is not built only with politics and with the balance of forces and interests, but rather with the spirit, with ideas, with works of peace. The positive summit [of the UN] is that not only …. is work done to avoid conflicts between States, but it also works with fraternity to make them capable of working with one another. Work is done for development and for the fundamental rights and duties of man, his dignity, his freedom and, first, for religious freedom. In this way, according to Paul VI, the organized international community interprets the higher sphere of human wisdom and even the sacredness of man. 2nd) The international dialogue treats first of the whole of man’s life: … man’s life is sacred: no one can dare to offend it. Respect of life, also for what concerns the great problem of birth, must have here its highest profession and its most rational defense … (Idem, 7).


One easily perceives that Paul VI’s address to the UN is a line that will also guide the words to the United Nations of John Paul II, of Benedict XVI and of Francis. Those words of October 1965 are also the guidelines on which all the international activity of the Holy See has been marked up to today.


In regard to development and the Holy See’s activity, it is useful to recall that the second part of the Encyclical Populorum Progressio, entitled “Towards a Solidaristic Development of Humanity,” in continuity with the address at the UN, suggested sufficiently clear and concrete lines to “work with one another to bring about the desired universal fraternity” (Idem, 6). With noteworthy understanding of economic relations, the Holy Father indicated finances and credit on one hand, and international trade on the other, as priority fields for common work (Populorum Progressio, 43-65).


Peoples must put their riches at the service of all (Idem, 48-49), and a suitable instrument for such an end would be a great global fund, nourished by the superfluous of the rich nations and, above all, the containment of military expenses. This would offer States generous and just financial assistance, without interests or with minimal interests, avoiding their being overwhelmed by debts. Such credits would be guaranteed by the control of their use on the basis of agreed plans, establishing a voluntary collaboration  … an effective co-participation between one another, in an atmosphere of equal dignity, for the building of a more human world (Idem, 54).


In the matter of international trade, after 50 years Populorum Progressio is of notable topicality. Paul VI pointed out, in fact, that the efforts displayed to help developing countries on the financial and technical plane would be illusory if their result  was  … annulled by the play of commercial relations between rich and poor countries (Idem, 56) … The highly industrialized countries export … especially manufactured goods, while the less developed economies have only agricultural products and raw materials to sell. Thanks to technical progress, the former rapidly increase in value and find sufficient outlet on the markets while, on the contrary, primary products from developing countries suffer great and abrupt price variations, which keep them very far from the progressive surplus value of the first. Hence the great difficulties in which the less industrialized nations find themselves …(Idem, 57).


Useful, therefore, is a system of international commercial exchanges, made of suitable treaties and agreements,, which re-establishes between the parties at least a relative equality of possibilities and is able to create real equality in the discussions and negotiations in the long term … establishing general norms in view of regulating certain prices, of guaranteeing certain productions, of supporting certain nascent industries … such a common effort towards greater justice in international relations between peoples would bring to developing countries a positive aid, not only with immediate but also with lasting effects (Idem, 61).


Noted then is that Pope Montini regarded nationalism and racism as fundamental obstacles to the construction of a solidaristic international community, founded on the United Nations Charter, on a just normative financial and multi-lateral commercial system and on respect of human rights (Idem, 62-63).


From Paul VI’s Pontificate up to today, history presents to us a constant contrast between the innumerable efforts to build and maintain peace and to promote development, and the as many innumerable obstacles that are posed. First, there was the ideological confrontation between Communism and the capitalist West, referred to by Eccleisam Suam (nn. 103-105). Then, the walls having fallen and the ideological confrontation rendered politically irrelevant, the reappearance of nationalism, racism and of alleged “cultural” wars. Instead, from the point of view of the Holy See, concord and peaceful life between peoples, founded on the supremacy of law, on economic relations geared to solidaristic development and in respect of human rights, remain a perennial orientation, reached in part yet always to be improved and deepened. If, in this point of view, one turns to the reading of John Paul II’s addresses to the United Nations (twice), of Benedict XVI, and of Pope Francis, as well as the great social encyclicals of Paul VI’s Successors – the last Laudato Si’ – one easily finds a profound harmony and continuity with the action and teachings of Pope Montini. In his very recent intervention at the UN, the Holy Father, re-echoing the words spoken 50 years ago by his Predecessor, confirmed the request for a true participation and a real and fair incidence of all the States in the UN decisions and in other multi-lateral organizations, in particular in the Security Council and in financial organisms, which must serve the sustainable development of all. He reminded that the task of the United Nations must be seen as the development and the promotion of the sovereignty of law, because justice is the indispensable requisite to realize the ideal of universal fraternity. Mentioning the 2030 Development Agenda, the Pope recalled the necessary connection between development and peace, and he called the States to concreteness to ensure access to all to necessary food, to a home and to fitting work, together with fundamental human rights, among which is religious freedom and the right of families and of the Church to educate. In full harmony with Paul VI, Pope Francis also condemned all types of war including, today, terrorism and the wars promoted by drug trafficking, and he called for a renewed commitment to a world without nuclear arms, in which the Non-Proliferation Treaty will find full implementation. Paul VI’s international action had another important manifestation, of a more technical character and, therefore, less known in its particulars, but equally important. I am referring to the international presence of the Holy See, which has had, beginning from Pope Montini’s Pontificate, decisive growth and consolidation.  As noted, the international presence of the Holy See, as sovereign and independent subject of international law has ancient origins, but beginning in 1945, with the development of International Organizations, the Holy See has also witnessed an increasingly e
nhanced presence in the multi-lateral ambit. Already as collaborator of Pius XII, Monsignor Giovanni Battista Montini had an important role in fostering the development of such a presence, which was reinforced following his election to the throne of Peter, in keeping with the lines delineated in Ecclesaim Suam, in the address to the UN of October 4, 1965, and in Populorum Progressio.


Already in 1964 the Holy See was accredited as “Observer State” to the United Nations General Assembly. The same year, the Holy See took part actively, in the capacity of Member, in the First Conference of the United Nations on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) – which then became a permanent organ of the General Assembly –. It is interesting to see the coincidence between the founding ideas of UNCTAD and its first programs with orientations on international trade offered in numbers 56-64 of Populorum Progressio. In fact, in its first great Conferences (1964, 1968, 1972) UNCTAD tried to create a general juridical framework for international trade, geared to balancing the disadvantages of the poorest countries. It also sought to become a platform for multi-lateral trade negotiations and for the promotion of regional agreements. The Holy See, which is still a member of UNCTAD, collaborated actively in the design of the so-called “system of generalized preferences.” Although because of several factors, among them the nationalism criticized by Paul VI, UNCTAD did not succeed in bringing to an end its great objectives and many of its functions were in fact cancelled or absorbed by the World Trade Organization (WTO), created in 1994, the Holy See, also through its presence as Observer at the WTO since 1998, has continued to collaborate actively, in the measure of its possibilities and its nature, to the establishment of a trade system favorable to the development of the most underprivileged countries.


At the time of Populorum Progressio the so-called World Bank Group (or simply World Bank) already existed, which was created in 1944 to give aid to States destroyed by the War. However, the audacious and farsighted proposals of Paul VI did not have in the International Community an echo proportionate to that had in the matter of trade. States never furnished the World Bank with sufficient resources to operate in the way suggested by Pope Montini. In fact, in the last decades of the last century it became, instead, one of the causes of the grave problem of the debt of the poorest countries. Saint John Paul II took up forcefully the orientations of Paul VI, with his vigorous and insistent request for the condoning and substantial reduction of the foreign debt of the poorest countries. Thus, around the year 2000, it was possible to have a dialogue between the Holy See and the authorities of the World Bank, especially for the design and promotion of the international HIPC (Heavily Indebted Poor Countries) program. And in his very recent address to the UN, the Holy Father Francis also returned energetically to the problem.


The Holy See’s international action in favor of peace, of development and of human rights is not reduced to its adherence to UNCTAD but, throughout all the 15 years of Paul VI’s Pontificate, it assumed the form of an across-the-board “dialogue.” In those years, the Holy See adhered sometimes as Member, more often as Observer, to the many international agencies and to many conventions. In particular, in 1967, the Holy See was accredited as Observer to the United Nations Office at Geneva. Subsequently it began to take part as Observer in the sessions of ECOSOC (the UN Economic and Social Council), in the Regional Economic Commissions of the ECOSOC itself, and in many specialized agencies, among them the International Labor Organization and the World Health Organization.


As part of the international action promoted by Paul VI, the Holy See took part in the two great Diplomatic Conferences for the codification of International Law: the Conference of Vienna on Diplomatic Law and the Conference of Vienna on the Law of Treaties, becoming later part of the two related Conventions. In the same period, the presence of the Holy See rose again in the most important Regional Organizations, such as the Council of Europe and the Organization of American States. Always in the years between 1963 and 1978, its participation rose again in the development of the international system of protection of human rights with its adherence to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms and its participation in the Conference for Cooperation and Security in Europe.  Following proposals expressed in the encyclical Ecclesiam Suam (n. 110) Blessed Paul VI continued to develop the efforts of John XXIII, aiming for the opening to countries of Eastern Europe, adding the objective of the recognition of the rights of the Holy See to the desire to promote religious freedom – including the freedom of the Catholic Church – and to foster peace and concord between peoples. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms, ratified by the Holy See on February 25, 1971, is inserted among the efforts to contain the nuclear course and in general the course of arms. However, it also served to establish channels of dialogue with the Authorities of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR).


The joint participation of the Holy See and the Soviet Union in some multi-lateral treaties already implied a juridical international recognition of the Holy See on the part of the Union, as well as an opportunity for dialogue.


However, the political importance of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms resides in the fact that, together with the Helsinki Conference, it introduced the Holy See as an actor at the center of political negotiations of the Cold War and justified a direct dialogue with the Soviet Authorities. Noted is how Cardinal Casaroli went personally to Moscow to deliver the instrument of ratification and was received officially by the Soviet Authorities.


Paul VI wanted the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Arms to be interpreted in a progressive sense, namely that it entail the assumption of further commitments, in particular: a) parity of access to the peaceful applications of nuclear technology in favor of States, part of which are not nuclear powers; b) the continuation of negotiations  for a program of general and complete disarmament. In line with this ambitious prospect that the Holy See assigned to this Treaty, it requested an acceleration in negotiations to obtain rapid and concrete results, and the sketching of an agreement to be presented at the Conference on disarmament, concerning nuclear disarmament, the prohibition of chemical and bacteriological arms, the limitation of conventional arms and a general and complete program of disarmament subject to rigorous international control. Thus, in fact, these proposals traced a plan of work of the Holy See that was manifested later in John Paul II’s Pontificate in the active participation in negotiations and in adherence to the most important disarmament treaties.[1] Likewise, that which today is the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) represents the consolidation of a process begun in 1969 with a series of negotiations and reunions for peace, security and cooperation in Europe: the leaders were the two opposite blocs, Western and Communist, and the success was the adoption of the Final Act of Helsinki in August of 1975. This process saw the active participation of the Holy See, in the sign of that international dialogue desired and promoted by Paul VI, which did not even exclude dialogue with the Authorities of the Communist bloc (Ecclesiam Suam, n. 110).


The Holy See, considered on the level of a State, received an invitation of the Warsaw Pact, which Paul VI was able to accept readily. With its participation in the
Helsinki process from 1969 to 1975, the Holy See was able to obtain that the Helsinki Act lay the basis for a minimum exercise of freedom of thought, of conscience, of religion and of religious creed for the citizens of Eastern Europe.


Conversely, the signing of the Final Act demonstrated the interest of the Holy See not to remain foreign to the initiative of cooperation, of peace, of development, to which almost the totality of the European States adhered. Moreover, the participation of the Holy See was not circumscribed to the Helsinki process, but constituted a concrete way to interpret — in an unheard of historic context, marked by the opposition of two blocs at the European and global level –, its mission in the world at the service of peace and security in Europe. After the signing of the Final Act of Helsinki, Paul VI expressed in particular the Holy See’s support of the Resolutions of the Conference regarding the defense of the fundamental rights and freedom of man as pillars to ensure for Europe a stable peace and mutual cooperation. Today it is easy to appreciate how Paul VI’s action, in part misunderstood at the time, was one of the causes of the process that culminated in 1989 in the fall of the Berlin Wall.


In turning to the conclusion of this, my intervention, I want to recall the recent intervention of Pope Francis at the UN, which, echoing the words of Paul VI, formulated concrete proposals for the present historic circumstance. Pope Francis said: “I would like, particularly, that my words be a continuation of the final words of Paul VI’s address, spoken almost exactly 50 years or so ago, but of perennial value. “It is the hour in which a pause imposes itself, a moment of recollection., of re-thinking, almost of prayer: to rethink, that is, our common origin, our history, our common destiny. Never before as today […] the appeal has become necessary to man’s moral conscience [because] the danger does not come either from progress or from science: these, if well used, can even resolve many grave problems that assail humanity” (Address to the Representatives of States, October 4, 1965). The common home of all men must continue to rise on a correct understanding of universal fraternity and on respect of the sacredness of each human life … The common home of all men must also be built on the understanding of a certain sacredness of created nature. Such understanding and respect exact a higher degree of wisdom, which accepts transcendence – that of oneself – gives up the construction of an omnipotent elite and understands that the full sense of the individual and collective life is found in selfless service to others and in the prudent and respectful use of creation, for the common good. Repeating Paul VI’s words, “the edifice of modern civilization must be governed by spiritual principles, capable not only of sustaining it, but also of illuminating and animating it” (Ibid.).”


[1] The Convention on the prohibition or restriction of the use of some conventional arms that can be considered excessively harmful or have indiscriminate effects, the Convention on the prohibition of the use, storage, production and transfer of anti-man mines and on their destruction; the Convention on the prohibition, production, storage and use of chemical arms  and on their destruction; the Treaty on the total ban of nuclear tests and the Convention on the prohibition of the development, production and storage of bacteriological (biological) and poisonous arms and on their destruction.

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