Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, secretary for the Vatican’s Relations with States, today spoke in Brescia, Italy, during the meeting entitled “Dialogue between Peoples in the name of Paul VI”, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of Blessed Paul VI’s visit to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 4 October 1965.
The prelate noted that a few months after the beginning of his papacy, in the encyclical “Ecclesiam Suam”, Paul VI proposed dialogue between the Church and the contemporary world as the cornerstone of his pontificate, assigning a fundamental role to dialogue between peoples to guarantee peace and equitable human development. “Pope Montini saw the theme of peace as an urgent and imperative duty, emphasised both by doctrinal reflections on the role of the Church in the contemporary world and the development of international institutions, which were reborn after the interruption of the second World War and grew rapidly in number and quality. We must not forget that the backdrop to Paul VI’s commitment to peace, and in contrast to it, was the threat of a total nuclear war, the unfettered arms race and the difficult and at times tragic crisis of the Cold War, such as the raising of the Berlin wall, the Cuban missile crisis, the beginning of the United States’ involvement in Vietnam, and many other minor conflicts”.
With regard to dialogue between States and peace-building, Archbishop Gallagher recalled Paul VI’s memorable message to the United Nations in 1965 in which he indicated four key points in the mission of the institution: offering States a formula for peaceful co-existence, a sort of international citizenship; working to unite nations, without exclusion; following the formula of equality, so that no State may be superior to the others; and considering the legal pact that unites the member States of the United Nations as a solemn oath that must change the future history of the world: “No more war, no more war”. To these points, the Pope adds another two points relating to the development and dignity of humanity: peace cannot be constructed solely through politics and the balance of forces and interests, but rather with the spirit, with ideas, and with works of peace. It involves working for development and for the rights and fundamental duties of humanity. International dialogue is concerned primarily with the issue of human life, which is sacred.
In the second part of the encyclical “Populorum Progressio”, on the development of peoples, Paul VI explains economic relations with great lucidity, highlighting finance and credit on the one hand, and international trade on the other, as priority areas for joint work. He underlines, among other things, the need for a global fund to assist poor countries, funded by richer nations principally through the limitation of military spending. With regard to international commerce, he observes that the financial and technical efforts to assist developing countries will be illusory if their results are cancelled by the interplay of trade relations between rich and poor countries.
“It is well known that Pope Montini viewed nationalism and racism as basic obstacles to the construction of a fraternal international community, based on the United Nations Charter, on an equitable legal, financial and commercial multilateral system and on respect for human rights”, noted Archbishop Gallagher.
The prelate went on to refer to the international presence that the Holy See acquired during Paul VI’s papacy, entering as an Observer in the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1964, participating then as a member in the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and often as an observer in many international bodies and at many conventions, from the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) in Geneva, the International Labour Organisation, the World Health Organisation, the Council of Europe and the Organisation of American States.
Again between the years 1963 and 1978 the Holy See participated in the development of the international system for the protection of human rights, through its adhesion to the Convention against Racial Discrimination and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and its participation in the Conference for Cooperation and Security in Europe.
Blessed Paul VI, added Archbishop Gallagher, developed the progress made by St. John XXIII in the opening of the East European countries, adding to the objective of recognition of the rights of the Holy See, the desire to promote religious freedom, including the freedom of the Catholic Church, and to favour peace and harmony between peoples. The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, ratified by the Holy See on 25 February 1971, formed part of the efforts made to contain the nuclear threat and the arms race in general, but also served to establish channels for dialogue with the authorities of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Finally, the Holy See, as a State, was invited by the Warsaw Pact to participate in the Helsinki Final Act, which laid the foundations for the basic exercise of freedom of thought, conscience and religion or religious belief for the citizens of Eastern Europe.