A Prayer For Peace

In light of his vocal appeals for the US to resist intervening in Syria, Michael Peppard sees Pope Francis shifting away from a “just war” approach to international affairs:

The “just war” tradition of the Catholic Church focuses on principles such as just cause, proportionality, last resort, and serious prospect of success, among others. In recent years, some have developed the principle of “responsibility to protect” as a corollary to the received tradition. Some usually progressive American Catholic voices, such as Michael Sean Winters, have argued that military intervention in Syria does qualify as just.

But from Pope Francis’s statements and previous writings, he leans away from the “just war” discourse and toward the just peacemaking school of thought—or outright pacifism. Conflict has been present from the time of Cain and Abel, he said in On Heaven and Earth, but “I believe that war must never be the path to resolution.” The recurrent human attraction to war is exacerbated, he believes, by “the media’s way of putting things, in black and white,” which “is a sinful tendency that always favors conflict over unity.”

That’s my impression too – in large part because just war theory did nothing to prevent the disaster in Iraq. Christians may need, given the terrifying spread of religious terrorism and unimaginably advanced and increasingly accessible means for widespread destruction, to recalibrate toward a more pacifist position. That’s where my own prayers are leading me after the last decade, and Francis is emerging as a potentially vital figure for framing the next century. Alessandro Speciale notes that “Francis took the unusual step of penning a letter to world leaders ahead of a global day of fasting and prayer for peace in Syria that Catholics will observe on Saturday (Sept. 7).” An excerpt from letter:

[I]t is clear that, for the world’s peoples, armed conflicts are always a deliberate negation of international harmony, and create profound divisions and deep wounds which require many years to heal. Wars are a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself, as seen, for example, in the Millennium Development Goals. Unfortunately, the many armed conflicts which continue to afflict the world today present us daily with dramatic images of misery, hunger, illness and death. Without peace, there can be no form of economic development. Violence never begets peace, the necessary condition for development…

It is regrettable that, from the very beginning of the conflict in Syria, one-sided interests have prevailed and in fact hindered the search for a solution that would have avoided the senseless massacre now unfolding. The leaders of the G20 cannot remain indifferent to the dramatic situation of the beloved Syrian people which has lasted far too long, and even risks bringing greater suffering to a region bitterly tested by strife and needful of peace. To the leaders present, to each and every one, I make a heartfelt appeal for them to help find ways to overcome the conflicting positions and to lay aside the futile pursuit of a military solution. Rather, let there be a renewed commitment to seek, with courage and determination, a peaceful solution through dialogue and negotiation of the parties, unanimously supported by the international community. Moreover, all governments have the moral duty to do everything possible to ensure humanitarian assistance to those suffering because of the conflict, both within and beyond the country’s borders.