"Peace Is Outcome of Justice"

Historian Giorgio Rumi on the Current International Crisis

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MILAN, Italy, SEPT. 28, 2001 (ZENIT.org-Avvenire).- The joint declaration signed by John Paul II in Armenia on Thursday is a wake-up call to the world, says one of the most prestigious European experts in contemporary history.



Giorgio Rumi, a columnist for L´Osservatore Romano, reviewed the declaration -- which said that the world´s situation calls for a choice "between good and evil," "between humanity and inhumanity" -- and said: "It is an appeal to the West to wake up from a certain somnolence, from a kind of escape that believes that peace and progress will always be guaranteed."

Rumi added: "We have convinced ourselves that we will be increasingly rich, healthy, and live ever longer, betrayed by intellectuals and politicians, who would find it highly unpopular to speak as Churchill did about ´tears and blood.´" He spoke further in this interview.

Q: Sacrifices. Some even think it will be at the price of war, a word that gives rise to fear. What has been the doctrine of the Church, in the course of history, as regards recourse to arms?

Rumi: All along the centuries, Catholic tradition has never been for peace understood in an absolute sense. The Church has always called for peace based on justice. A peace, therefore, which is not the consecration of an extant order or disorder. It has never preached submission to tyrants in the name of peace.

In the 17th century, the Jesuit "monarchists" regarded the death of a tyrant as just, even if he was a legitimate king, if there was no other way of restoring justice. Nor has it ever been said that revolutions are wrong at all times and in all circumstances. An oppressed people has the right and even the duty to rebel, when there is no other possible way.

Q: Does it mean that the Church is in favor of peace but not at any price?

Rumi: The price of peace cannot be injustice and abuse. In this regard, the Church´s tradition is clear and lineal, and continues to be so.

Reading the newspapers, there seems to be a supposed split between a pacifist Church and a Church that favors intervention, between a pacifist Pope and some U.S. and Italian interventionist bishops.

If one reads the speeches of both sides calmly, continuity emerges: the right and moral obligation to defend the common good, respecting proportionality between the response and the offense, and the lack of alternatives. Recourse to military action appears as the last alternative.

The division that the media try to create could have a double objective: the first, to choose a kind of "court chaplain," whom they want to have say what is most useful in keeping with their own cause; the second, to weaken the vigor of the Church´s stance.

Q: Today, there is no lack among the faithful of those who favor the West´s unilateral renunciation to any reaction or response to the terrorists.

Rumi: Just as at the individual level, when I have the duty to intervene in face of violence I have witnessed, including at the risk of my life and the life of the aggressor himself, so is it true at the collective level.

In August 1917, Pope Benedict XV wrote to the nations at war not only to lament "the useless massacre," but also to emphasize the necessary conditions for a return to peace.

For example, he spoke about the need to reconstruct Belgium, even if it required the use of arms. For the Church, peace is the outcome of justice -- this was, in fact, Pope John XXIII´s motto.

Catholics are not preservers of the existing order, no matter what it is.

Q: What is the Church saying after Sept. 11?

Rumi: It does not call for resignation but, rather, for no repetition of what happened. No symbol, whether Westminster or Mecca, should henceforth be annihilated by terrorism. And this risk must be annihilated even with force.

Naturally, the question of how is very difficult and dramatic, because history teaches us that it is extremely difficult to protect the innocent.

How many innocents died in the bombing of Nazi Germany? We must not be hypocrites. There is a common good to defend. The Pope speaks as a teacher of truth and natural law; he is not a military strategist. Others will decide, specifically, what to do, and how.

The Pope reminds all that, if war is initiated, it must be carried out with the intention not to harm the innocent, and only when all others avenues to overcome the danger are closed.