Cardinal Martino on the Need for Peacemakers

Vatican Official Publishes a New Book

ROME, FEB. 15, 2006 ( Peace will never be the result of “structural mechanisms and processes,” says Cardinal Renato Martino.

Rather, it needs “peacemakers and peaceful people,” he contends.

The distinction the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace makes between “men of peace, pacifists and peacemakers” enables him to come to the above conclusion, judging by the last chapter of his recent book, “Peace and War” (Cantagalli).

“Peace is a person’s patrimony, one of his/her ethical and spiritual qualities,” something that is not true, for example, of institutions and international treaties, he writes.

“Man is first and foremost peaceful: Every individual person who is able, by gift of God and by his own virtue, to live a non-conflictual relationship with himself and with others, is a peaceful person,” explains Cardinal Martino.

Therefore, “[p]eace is human wealth that belongs to the men of peace, the ‘peacemakers,'” he states. “We will never have peace structures without peacemakers, peaceful people.

“Too often in the past we have been under the illusion that structural mechanisms and processes would ensure a world of peace with no need for peacemakers.”

And although international agreements and organizations and the like are important resources for peace, in fact, “they are secondary and indirect,” because the “‘main’ resource is the men of peace, the peacemakers,” he stresses.

The “man of peace sows peace around himself”; he is “peaceful always and in every circumstance, because peace is part of his being,” the cardinal points out.

Pacifism’s risk

“Pacifists, instead, are those who rally for peace and who make peace their social and political object,” indicates the cardinal.

And, although “pacifism is a good thing, … it can degenerate. It bears all its positive fruit only if it is promoted by men of peace.” Therefore, “one may say that pacifism depends on being peaceful.”

The Vatican official continues: “Pacifism without peaceful protagonists even risks betraying the purpose of peace. It may become an ideology, Manichean in its judgments and even intolerant. Insensitive to the complexity of situations …”

According to the cardinal, “Pacifism is not content with witnessing: It wants to convince, to reach consensus, to be translated into winning and, hence, a powerful proposal.”

Therefore, although pacifism “is useful because it spreads a passion for peace,” it “needs to be continuously amended, brought back to its deepest reasons, that is, to the peace that lives in the hearts of peaceful men.”

From the historical point of view, pacifism “was more successful as it was incarnated in peaceful men,” Cardinal Martino contends. “It was able to spur consciences and also accomplish concrete political results because its protagonists were able to head the pacifist movement using their quality as peaceful, free men.”


The cardinal says that militant pacifism has a deep-down desire “to possess peace and to impose it.” He points out that the “wisdom of Christian realism … knows pretty well that peace is God’s gift” more than “a human attainment; it also knows that full peace is not for this world and, therefore, it patiently tries to be won by peace, rather than seize it.”

In this connection, the cardinal states, “You cannot become a ‘peace operator'” if you are not capable of cherishing “peace within yourself.”

“Let us now turn to conciliators,” he continues. “They get their nourishment from being men of peace, to get connected to other men of peace and, as such, to get involved in historical conflicts to bring words, attitudes and solutions of peace.

“If being peaceful is a way of being and pacifism is a process, being conciliators requires action. As pacifism can be utopian and abstract, a conciliating action is concrete and realistic. As pacifism simplifies, judges and sometimes condemns, a conciliating action seeks to understand complexity, helps to grow, suggests improving solutions, converts to peace by converting itself to peace.

“If pacifism is often guided by ideology and carries out a political design, conciliators, or ‘peace operators,’ are guided first and foremost by love, because, as Augustine wrote, ‘Having peace means to love.'”

Gift of God

“The difference between the three expressions — peacemaker, pacifist and conciliator –” is nourished by “the primacy of peace, God’s gift,” as opposed to “peace as a conquest of man,” Cardinal Martino writes.

“Without these two distinct complementary planes we would not understand why the first conciliators are the men of prayer,” he adds. “Neither would we understand the two important initiatives of prayer proposed by the Holy Father and held in Assisi in 1986 and on January 24, 2002.

“Peace is first and foremost a gift from God: ‘I leave you my peace, I give you my peace. Not as the world gives, give I to you’ (John 14:27). The awareness that men are not able to provide themselves with peace puts the ideological pacifism in a difficult situation and opens opportunities for peacemakers and conciliators.”

The cardinal adds: “We need peacemakers and conciliators because peace will never be the result of structural or legal and political mechanisms only. An ‘impersonal’ peace, resulting from logics that do not depend on a person, is a contradiction in terms.”

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation

Support ZENIT

If you liked this article, support ZENIT now with a micro-donation