Pope Francis at Ground Zero


Pope Francis: A Pope Who Sees a WWIII and Pleas for It to Stop

A Look at How the Holy Father Has Referred to Global Violence as a ‘Third World War Fought Piecemeal’


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As the world reeled from the news of the terrorist attacks in France on Friday night, Pope Francis’ remark on Saturday that the violence is part of a World War III made international headlines

His remark, made in a telephone interview on Saturday with the Italian episcopal conference’s official television network, TV2000, was a response to a question about if these terrorist attacks could be considered part of the “piecemeal Third World War” the Holy Father has mentioned many times before.

Pope Francis said “this is a piece of it,” adding “there is no religious or human justification for it.”

This evaluation of the violence in the world as a Third World War being fought piecemeal is clearly one that speaks to the Pope, as he’s made this remark with a certain frequency.

In August of 2014, for example, on his return from South Korea, a journalist asked the Pope about his meeting that day with a group of survivors who were “comfort women” — women and girls who were forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories before and during World War II.

“Today we are in a world at war, everywhere,” the Pope responded “Someone  said to me, ‘Father do you know that we are in the Third World War, but bit by bit.’ He understood! It’s a world at war in which these cruelties are done.”

The Holy See’s Permanent Observer to the United Nations in Geneva, Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, that same month spoke in an interview with ZENIT about the Pope using the same expression to refer to the Middle East.

Archbishop Tomasi said that with this phrase, “the Holy Father has caught the imagination of the world.” 

The expression “forces us to reflect on the many conflicts around the world,” he added, “from the Central African Republic, Libya, Congo to Syria and Northern Iraq, just to mention a few. This explosion of violence conditions the whole world.”

War for money

Pope Francis has used the reference in both of his addresses to “popular movements” — grassroots initiatives aimed at bringing people out of poverty. 

Just over a year ago in his address to them in Rome, Pope Francis spoke of this third world war, clarifying that there are “economic systems that must make war to survive.” 

He said that accounts are balanced with the manufacture and sale of arms in economies that “sacrifice man at the feet of the idol of money. “

“And no thought is given to hungry children in refugee camps; no thought is given to forced displacements; no thought is given to destroyed homes; no thought is given now to so many destroyed lives. How much suffering, how much destruction, how much grief there is. Today, dear sisters and brothers, the cry for peace rises in all parts of the earth, in all nations.”

When he addressed these movements again in July during his trip to Bolivia, he said: “In this third world war, waged piecemeal, which we are now experiencing, a form of genocide is taking place, and it must end.”

No more

Returning from Turkey in December, he made the same point: “It’s a personal opinion, but I’m convinced that we are living a Third World War in pieces, in chapters, everywhere. Behind this there are enmities, political problems, economic problems  — not only, but there are so many, to save this system where the god of money is at the center, and not the human person – and businesses.”

And this year as well, the Holy Father has continued to use the expression.

He spoke of this “third world war being fought piecemeal” when he addressed Armenian faithful on the 100th anniversary of their genocide. And again when he marked in a general audience the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

It’s an expression that frequently comes up on his travels, such as in Sarajevo and in Turin, and again upon arriving in Cuba.

And he’s said it in speaking with youth and with military chaplains.

The expression springs from the heart of a Pope who touches the suffering caused by war, and has on many occasions pleaded, “No more war. Never again war.”

One of his most heartfelt appeals</a> was made after praying the midday Angelus in July of 2014: “Brothers and sisters, no more war! No more war! Above all, I think of the children, those who have been denied hope of a decent life, of a future: dead children, wounded children, maimed children, orphaned children, children who have remnants of war as toys, children who don’t know how to smile. Please stop! I ask you with all my heart, it’s time to stop! Stop, please!”

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Kathleen Naab

United States

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