Cardinal Pietro Parolin

Catholic Church England and Wales - Mazur/

Cardinal Parolin’s Address to 'Nostra Aetate' Conference

“Educate to Peace”</p>

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Here is a translation of the address that the Cardinal Secretary of State, Pietro Parolin, delivered Wednesday at the International Congress promoted and organized, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Conciliar Declaration “Nostra Aetate,” by the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, in collaboration with the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity and with the Pontifical Gregorian University.

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Distinguished Gentlemen and Ladies

Dear Friends,

I thank the Pontifical Council for Inter-Religious Dialogue, the Commission for Religious Relations with Judaism of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, and the Pontifical Gregorian University for organizing this Congress, on the 50th Anniversary of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council’s Declaration “Nostra Aetate,” on the relations of the Catholic Church with non-Christian religions.

I greet all the participants respectfully and cordially, happy to be able to offer some considerations at the conclusion of your works on the subject: “Educate to Peace.”

I do so beginning from a very simple axiom, which the Church has always taught, still teaches today, and does not tire of repeating: peace is possible; peace is right! Therefore, a duty is imposed on all lovers of peace, and it is to educate the new generations to these ideals, to prepare a better era for the whole of humanity. Education to peace is more urgent today than ever, because in face of the tragedies that continue to afflict humanity, men are tempted to yield to fatalism, as if peace were an unattainable ideal (cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 2004, n. 4).I would like to touch on the following points in my address: 1)the horizon of peace; 2)its biblical roots; 3)education to peace in recent papal teaching; 4) education to peace today.

  1. The Horizon of Peace

“Nothing is lost with peace, all can be lost with war.” Without a doubt these words of Pope Pius XII, spoken on August 24, 1939, still keep stringent timeliness. And they were echoed by subsequent Pontiffs in the course of the 20th century and in the new millennium, on the Petrine throne to Pope Francis’ recent tweet: “War is the mother of all poverties, a great predator of lives and souls,” (September 4, 2015).

At a time of intense concern, given the multiplication of tensions and conflicts in different parts of the world, it is urgent to promote a profound and articulated reflection on the subject of education to peace. The affirmation of a genuine culture of peace cannot do without the ethical roots geared to the building of an International Community attentive to coexistence among peoples and to the integral development of the human being. As Maritain affirmed, “peace will not be possible without respect for the basis of common life, of human dignity, and the person’s rights” (cf. J. Maritain, Christianity and Democracy, 1943, Life and Thought, Milan, 1977). “If one day a state of peace is established among peoples (…) it will not depend solely on political, economic and financial agreements established between diplomats and men of State; or from the juridical construction of a truly supranational coordinator equipped with means of effective action: it will also depend on the profound adherence of men’s conscience(cf. J. Maritain, La Voie de la Paix, 1947, Librairie Francaise, Mexico, 1947, OC IX, pp. 143-164).

The building of peace is like a horizon on the ocean that stands out in front of us, but one has the sensation that it always moving away. This calls us to work tirelessly to reach it. “Not rarely in the modern world do we feel ourselves losers. However, the adventure of hope leads us beyond. One day I found these words written on a calendar: ‘The world belongs to the one that loves it and knows better to give proof of it.’ How true these words are! In the heart of every person there is an infinite thirst for love and we, with that love that God has infused in our hearts, can satiate it!”

Thus wrote the Servant of God Vietnamese Cardinal Francois Xavier Nguyen van Thuan, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace from 1998 to 2002. And in fact he was right. In fact, education to peace constitutes a fundamental aspect of the biblical message and of the recent teaching of the Church, as we will see shortly.

  1. The Biblical Roots of Peace

Knowing well how much the subject of peace is present in all the religious traditions, I will limit myself, however, to consider its roots in the Jewish-Christian tradition.

In the Jewish Scriptures the word shalom embraces the meaning of “being well,” of wellbeing in the widest sense, fortune, prosperity, physical health, contentment, satisfaction; it evokes the fecundity of the flocks and the fertility of fields, it is the hope of a peaceful relation and understanding between peoples and persons, and of salvation.

Shalom goes beyond the purely personal sphere and is oriented in a social sense. It is not only the absence of war, but the affirmation of the lordship of God and the urgency to accept it with fidelity.

In a particular way, the Psalms sing of peace as gift of God: “for He will speak peace to his people, to his Saints, to those who turn to him in their hearts” (Psalm 84:8); “May the Lord bless His people with peace!” (Psalm 29:11); “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem! ‘May they prosper who love you! Peace be within your walls, and security within your towers!” For my brethren and companions sake I will say, ‘Peace be within you!’” (Psalm 122:6-8). Inserted on this theological base is the New Testament tradition that acknowledges in Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah anointed by the Spirit of the Lord to bring the Gospel of peace especially to the poor (cf. Isaiah 61:1; Luke 4:19).

In the New Testament, peace is the person of Jesus Christ. His actions and his teaching are announcements of events of peace, signs that anticipate the Kingdom of God and allow it to be perceived: “For the Kingdom of God  … is righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit: he who thus serves Christ is acceptable to God and approved by men. Let us then pursue what makes for peace and for mutual up-building” (Romans 14:17-19).

Therefore, the Lord’s disciples are operators of peace. And thus peace is, at the same time, gift of God and a commitment of faith for Christians. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Matthew 5:9). To live according to the Gospel means to abolish every form of separation and discrimination among men, to build the community in concord.

  1. Education to Peace in Recent Papal Teaching

3.1) Pacem in Terris

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Pacem in terris, published on April 11, 1963, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis invited Catholics to read or reread this encyclical, whose message is not the expression of a pacifism or of naive optimism, but builds the notion of the social order on the Natural Law.

In this little pedagogical treatise on peace, Saint John XXIII affirms that “peace can be established and consolidated only in full respect of the order established by God.”

To make this understood, Pope Roncalli, beginning with the teaching of Leo XIII and Pius XII, examines four ambits of the social order: relatio
ns a) between citizens; b) between citizens and the public authority; c) between the political communities; d) between the political communities on one hand and the International Community as a whole on the other.

a) Men gathered in society are first of all persons and, therefore, subjects of rights and duties that “stem immediately and simultaneously from human nature itself” and, therefore, are “universal,” “inviolable, inalienable.” Besides the rights of an economic and political nature, the Pontiff mentions those that regard freedom of conscience and religious freedom.

The natural duties are summarized in the duty to respect others’ rights, in the duty of solidarity, which asks everyone to contribute to the social order. In synthesis, it follows that, “the order of human beings in coexistence is of a moral nature,” and “the moral order – universal, absolute and immutable in its principles – finds its objective foundation in the true God.”

b) In regard to the order of relations between citizens and the Authorities, the Pontiff explains that there is no society without authority, because authority is not a creation or an invention of men, but “stems from God,” who created men “social.” Moreover, authority “brings the virtue of the obligation of the moral order, which is founded in God,” and not only the menace of sanctions, which “does not move human beings effectively to act for the common good.”

The specific point of reference of the order in the relation between the citizens and the Authorities is constituted by the notion of the common good, “raison d’etre of the public powers,” here all human beings and intermediary bodies are also “bound to make their specific contribution.”

In its “essential and most profound” aspects the common good must be determined with reference to human nature itself: it is the good of human persons who have “needs of the body” and “exigencies of the spirit,” today often unjustly neglected, while “the common good is carried out not only by not putting obstacles, but by serving others in attaining the ultra-terrestrial and eternal end.”

c) “The same moral law that regulates relations between individual human beings also regulates the relations between the respective political communities.”

In fact, the relations between political communities must be regulated according to justice, in the recognition of the respective rights – outstanding among which are the rights to existence, to development, to good reputation and to honor – and of respective duties.

A particular duty of justice of the political communities is the fair treatment of minorities and respect “of their language, of their culture, of their custom.” “A direct action to compress or to suffocate the vital flow of minorities is a grave violation of justice; and is all the more so when it is done to make them disappear.” On their side the members of minorities should make an effort not to “accentuate the importance of ethnic elements,” and to “appreciate the positive aspects of a condition makes possible the enrichment of themselves with the gradual and continued assimilation of values proper to different traditions and civilizations.” The minorities should be “a bridge” between two civilizations rather than a dangerous “zone of friction.”

If this lesson were well assimilated, we will have avoided various conflicts, such as the African genocide in Rwanda, the war in the Balkans, the war in Iraq and Syria, we would not have arrived at “the third world war in pieces” …

Because “there are on earth countries that abound in cultivable land and lack men; in other countries, instead, there is no proportion between the natural riches and the disposable capital,” the relations between the political communities must be marked by solidarity, fostering exchanges between the respective citizens and collaborating for the common good of the whole human family.

“Whenever it is possible” “capital in search of work” should make investments and have productive installations in countries where labor abounds “and not vice versa,” in order to reduce the phenomenon of emigration.

This indication also keeps all its timeliness today, and it should be taken into account to improve the conditions of life especially in emerging countries in reference to the issue of migrations to Europe for economic reasons.

No political community has the right to exercise an oppressive action or undue interference in others. Therefore, according to Pacen in terris, besides truth, justice and solidarity, international relations also call for freedom. At the moment in which many States, especially African States, were on the point of independence, the Pope criticized the risk of neo-colonialism. The most appropriate aid for developing countries is that which enables the inhabitants of such countries to become themselves “the main architects of their economic development and social progress,” beyond all welfarism, while this very aid can violate the principle of freedom when “the moral values and ethnic peculiarities proper of the community in the phase of economic develop “ are not respected or act for the purpose “of economic predominance.” Benedict XVI addressed this point in Caritas in veritate, and in the discourses held in Apostolic Journeys in Africa.

d) Considered, finally, is the order in relations between political communities and the International Community, namely the supra-national global order.

“No political community today is able to pursue its interests and develop by closing itself in on itself,” but it must establish relations with the International Community as a whole.

The unity of the human race as ever postulated the existence of a universal common good, founded also on the protection of the rights and duties of the human person in the whole world. The fear of the “terribly destructive force of modern arms,” the accentuated circulation “of ideas, of men, of things,” and the interdependence between national economies lead to the conclusion that the universal common good can no longer be reached through normal diplomatic relations engaged in between individual national communities.

The need is born of a “global community” equipped with its own institutions, with a new sphere of social order, related to the relations between individual political communities and the institutions of the global community.

Therefore, for the Pontiff peace consists in respect of the moral order in the four spheres indicated, “so that the institutions with economic, social, cultural and political ends are such that they do not create obstacles, but rather facilitate or render less arduous the perfecting of persons, both in the natural as well as in the supernatural order.” Hence the strong need for education, so that Catholics acquire the necessary scientific, technical and professional capacities that, however, are not enough on their own without the integration of spiritual values.

Pacem in terris already lamented the grave break between faith and temporal commitment, which Gaudium et spes also invites to surmount, and it singles out as the cause incomplete Christian formation, particularly lacking in regard to the Social Doctrine of the Church.

Fifty years later, the formative lacuna exists or grows in many areas of ancient Christian tradition. Hence the urgency to carry out an ample educational proposal, radically innovative, which is able to respond to the widespread need for peace, combined with the proclamation of the Gospel.

Pope John also made himself a pioneer of the inter-religious dialog
ue, inviting Catholics to collaborate, on the basis of the Natural Law, with non-Catholic Christians, with members of other religions and with all human beings in whom the light of reason is present and operating in natural honesty.

3.2) The Messages for the World Day of Peace

After Pope John, no other Pope has written a new encyclical on peace, but all his Successors have offered us almost a “summa” of the way the Church looks at the problems of peace on earth. This has happened especially through Messages for the World Day of Peace.

It was Pope Paul VI who thought of this annual event, beginning on January 1, 1968. He did so from the beginning in an inter-religious key: “The proposal to dedicate the first day of the year to peace does not intend to qualiify itself as exclusively ours, religious, that is, Catholic. It wishes to find the adherence of all true friends of peace, as if it were their own initiative, and to express themselves in free ways, congenial to the particular nature of all those who perceive how beautiful and how important is the consonance of every voice in the world for the exaltation of this primary good, which is peace, in the various concerts of modern humanity.”

Since then, the Bishop of Rome has always been faithful to this event, conferring on the Day a specific orientation, with a precise argument, involving believers and non-believers, intellectuals, men of culture and scientists, in the great subject of the building of peace.

In particular, the subject of education to peace has been a specific object, with Paul VI in 1970: ‘To Be Educated to Peace through Reconciliation”; with John Paul II in 1979: “To Reach Peace, Educate to Peace,” in 1995: Woman Educator of Peace,” in 2004: “An Always Timely Commitment: To Educate to Peace”; and with Benedict XBVI in 2012: “Educate Young People to Justice and Peace.”

3.3) The Days of Assisi: Nostra Aetate and Peace

If Paul VI had the great intuition of the World Day of Peace, to John Paul II is owed the idea of the Day of Assisi, convoked for the first time on October 26, 1986.

However, let us hear the account of an eyewitness, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray: “A brief meeting on a hill. A few words, a few gestures were enough for tormented humanity to rediscover in joy the unity of its origins. When, at the end of a grey morning, the rainbow appeared in the sky of Assisi, the religious heads, gathered by the prophetic audacity of one of them, John Paul II, perceived a pressing call to fraternal life: no one could doubt any longer that prayer caused that manifest sign of the understanding between God and Noah’s descendants. In the Cathedral of Saint Rufus, when the leaders of the Christian Churches exchanged peace, I saw tears on certain faces and not least of important ones. In front of the Basilica of Saint Francis, where, numb with cold, each one at the end seemed to be tightly closer to the other (…), when young Jews precipitated themselves to the platform to offer an olive branch, in the first place to Muslims, I was surprised to be drying the tears on my face.

The anxiety of peace between men and peoples pushed us to be together to pray, but not to pray together, according to the Pope’s expression, whose initiative, despite his concern to avoid any semblance of syncretism, was not understood then by some who feared to see their Christian specificity diluted.

Assisi made the Church take a leap forward toward non-Christian religions that seemed to live, up to that moment, in another planet notwithstanding Pope Paul’s teaching  (in his first encyclical Ecclesiam suam)  and of Vatican Council II (the “Nosrta Aetate” Declaration).

Assisi is the symbol of the Church’s task in a world marked by religious pluralism: to profess the unity of the mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ. Later, pausing on the mystery of the unity of the human family and at the same time on creation and on redemption in Jesus Christ, John Paul II affirmed: ‘The differences are a less important element in relation to unity that, on the contrary, is radical, fundamental and determinant’ (Address to the Curia, December 22, 1986).

Thus Assisi enabled men and women to witness an authentic experience of God in the heart of their religions. ‘Every genuine prayer – added the Pope – is inspired by the Holy Spirit, who is mysteriously present in the heart of every man” (cf. R. Etchegaray, Tertium Millennium, N. 2/June-September 1996).

The first time in Assisi was twenty-nine years ago. Two days later, John Paul II, receiving in the Vatican the representatives of the non-Christian religions that had taken part, said to them almost as an assignment: “Let us continue to live the spirit of Assisi” (October 29, 1986), coining the expression that has become as the sole icon of peace.

A similar meeting of prayer for peace at Assisi was desired by him, on January 9-10, 1993, on the occasion of the Balkans’ crisis, and then on January 24, 2002 and, finally, twenty-five years later by Benedict XVI (October 27, 2011). But also today the spirit of Assisi creates wonders of fraternal dialogue. It was seen this morning, here at Rome, in the inter-religious meeting held in Saint Peter’s Square with Pope Francis.

We hope that other initiatives taken together by leaders of the different global religious traditions will bear new fruits of peace during the imminent Jubilee Year of Mercy.

  1. Education to Peace Today

4.1) The Language

In the Message for the World Day of Peace of 1979, Saint John Paul II touched a key point for us today, that of language. To build peace the language, made to express the thoughts of the heart and to unite, must abandon pre-constituted schemes. One must act on the language to act on the heart and thwart the snares of the language itself.

By dint of expressing everything in terms of relations of force, of struggles of groups and of classes, of friends and enemies, the propitious terrain is created for social barriers, contempt and even hatred and terrorism and their veiled or open apologia. On the contrary, from a heart dedicated to the value of peace stems the concern to listen and to understand, respect for the other, gentleness that is true strength, trust. Such language leads to objectivity, to truth and to peace.

The Pope stressed the educational task of the social media and the expressive tone used in exchanges and political debates, national and international, concluding with an appeal to leaders of Nations and of International Organizations: “Know how to find a new language, a language of peace: this will open on its own a new space for peace” (n. 10).

4.2) Between the School Benches

Finding myself in an academic meeting, I would like to return to the question of language. The notion of peace is generally defined negatively, as absence of conflict, as non-war. As we are far from the beauty of the biblical shalom, which – as we have seen – is constituted only by positive values!

We must have the prophetic courage to go finally beyond the “Si vis pacem, para bellum.” It is no longer enough for Nations not to attack one another, but it is urgent to understand that peace relates to the condition in which every individual lives within his State.

When a citizen is vulnerable before the State, that internal tension is already a situation of war. It is no accident that Pacem in terris begins with the affirmation of individual liberties.

It is indispensable to guarantee these liberties
, but it is absurd to think of doing so with war. The masterful way is education to peace, beginning by promoting in school and academic texts the awareness and value of respect of human rights, of international cooperation and of education to peace.

4.3) To Invest in Education

Schools and Universities are called to reconstruct a spirit of fraternity between persons and Nations, to integrate the individual dimension with the relational and communal relation in the search for solutions to problems (cf. Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Peace 2014, nn. 3 and 4).

To invest in education, in particular for the young generations, is a condition “for the development of peoples, particularly those that struggle to free themselves from the yoke of hunger, of poverty, of endemic sicknesses, of ignorance; who seek greater participation in the fruits of civilization, a more active appreciation  of their human qualities” (cf. Paul VI, Populorum Progressio, March 26, 1967, n. 1).

The Church joins forces for greater access to literacy, to education for all and for permanent formation, without neglecting the constant commitment for the promotion of woman and in favor of the ethnic and religious minorities.

Without a doubt, a renewed attention is being placed on humanistic studies, thanks to which that logical capacity and faculty of judgment are structured that enable the learner to know rationally and to deepen scientifically concepts, data and formulations.

Poetry, art, music, aesthetics, which have always an irreplaceable place in the formation of young people, as occasions of emotive and intuitive experiences, which lead to the discovery of the transcendent and the meta-empirical, must find their central place again in education (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Council of Europe, November 25, 2014).

4.4) Man at the Center

The first challenge of education to peace is, therefore, the recovery of the centrality of man in face of a prevalent technical tendency, which affirms the primacy of productive efficiency, detaching technology from any moral judgment.

If one does not let oneself be “questioned about a wider meaning of life” (cf. Evangelii gaudium, n. 203), one risks becoming a prisoner of the “disposable culture,” which has no hindrance not even in face of the family, of the care of affectivity and the religious choice, removing every sentiment of mercy and compassion (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Delegates of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, December 7, 2013).

4.5 Putting Personal Attitudes to Good Use

A second challenge of great importance in education to peace is customized formation: every person – child, youth, adult, elderly – committed in an educational process, has attitudes, knowledge, competencies to whose development the educator that approaches from outside must give much attention. The first competence from which to begin is that which the person of the learner already has. If the interventions of the educator are substituted radically for personal inclination, the pedagogical process is blocked and deteriorates. In the educational relation each student “must be felt accepted and loved for what he is, with all his limitations and his potentialities” (cf. Pope Francis, Address to the Members of the Italian Catholic Union of Middle School Teachers, UCIIM, March 14, 2015).

4.5) Network Education

A further challenge, connected to the preceding, is the recovery of the communal responsibility of education. In society, as in schools and Universities, a fecund network of cooperation will enable teachers to work well and with one another, with the pupils and their families.

4.6) To Educate in Acceptance of Diversity

The acceptance of diversity is fundamental in education to mutual respect and in the freedom to express one’s ideas and one’s religious convictions. This constructive attitude finds its natural humus in selfless dialogue (cf. Evangelii gaudium , n. 42), which in the common search for peace and justice becomes “an ethical commitment that creates new social conditions” (Ibid., n. 250).

“The ontological cause of the present context of hatred and contempt within the human family is constituted by a radical rejection of humanity in the other,” writes Pope Francis in the Message for the World Day of Peace 2015 (cf. n. 4).

It is obvious that to accept the differences proper to every culture does not mean  to deny the existence  of objective values and common principles to human nature itself, without which the door opens to cultural relativism, forgetfulness of the memory, nihilism and radicalism (cf. Pope Francis, Lumen fidei, n. 25). “A culture that rejects the other, severs the most intimate and true bonds, ending by loosening and breaking up all that society has, to generate violence and death” (January 12, 2015).

To avoid these ill-fated consequences, the Pope himself indicates the horizon of fraternity that “returns to the growth in fullness of every man and woman [where] the just ambitions of a person, especially if young, are not frustrated and offended, and he is not robbed of the hope of being able to realize them” (Pope Francis, Message for the World Day of Peace 2014, n. 8).

The educational commitment of Catholic schools and Universities for peace is exemplary, especially in emerging countries.  I hope that the same way and the same educational criteria will inspire the action of the leaders of the other religious communities in the world, for a humanistic education respectful of the fundamental liberties of the person. If this happens, the dream of a new humanity capable of dialoguing in harmony and in peace, according to the plan of the biblical shalom will no longer be a utopia.

  1. Conclusion

I would like to conclude this reflection with the words of a prophet of our time, the late Don Tonino Bello, Bishop of Molfetta:

“Peace requires struggle, suffering, tenacity.

It exacts other costs of misunderstanding and sacrifice.

It rejects the temptation to enjoyment.

Does not tolerate sedentary attitudes.

Does not have much to share with the banal ‘peaceful life.’

Yes, more than a goal peace is a way.

And also an uphill path.

And he will be blessed, because he is a peacemaker,

But not one who pretends to have arrived without ever having left,

But one who starts out.”

Thank you for listening.


[Original text: Italian]


[Translation by ZENIT]




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