Pope Francis releases a symbolic peace dove

“Why do those who are different from us frighten us so much?”, Pope laments in preface to new book on peace (full text)

“Why do those who are different from us frighten us so much?”, Pope Francis has deplored in a preface to a new book on peace.

– Why are we still resorting to violence? And thinking that force brings credibility?

The “painful reality” of the “climate of war and mutual violence” ever present in the world today “not only demands that we keep alive the call for peace, but almost forces us to ask ourselves decisive questions”, the pontiff writes in a prologue to Per un sapere della pace (“For a knowledge of peace”), published by the Vatican Publishing House.

“Why, in a world where globalisation has broken down so many borders, in which we are all said to be interconnected, do we continue to practice violence in relationships between individuals and communities?”, the Pope laments in his text.

He continues: “Why do those who are different from us often frighten us so much that we adopt defensive and distrustful behaviour that all too often turns into hostile aggression?

“Why do governments of states believe that the deployment of force, even through acts of war, can give them greater credibility in the eyes of their citizens and increase the consensus they enjoy?”

“For a knowledge of peace” has been published as a companion to the new course on the “Sciences of Peace” established by the Pope at the Pontifical Lateran University.

The volume is edited by Gilfredo Marengo, a professor of anthropological theology at the John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences in Rome and vicepresident of that same institution.

The book features contributions by Archbishop Paul Richard Gallagher, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States, and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino, President Emeritus of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, among others.

“Those who wish to become experts in the science of peace must learn to be attentive to the signs of the times”

Full text of the Pope’s preface to “For a knowledge of peace”

(Source: Vatican News; translation: Novena)

The change of epoch that humanity is experiencing is shaped by what I have repeatedly called “a piecemeal third world war”. We know well how much the fear of a world war, capable of destroying all humanity, has marked our recent past.

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St. John XXIII dedicated his last encyclical, addressed to all people of good will, to the theme of peace (Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963). And how can we fail to recall the sincere appeal of St. Paul VI to the United Nations Assembly: “Never again one against the other, never, never again!”(October 4, 1965).

Unfortunately, we must point out that today the world is still immersed in a climate of war and mutual violence: this painful reality not only demands that we keep alive the call for peace, but almost forces us to ask ourselves decisive questions.

Why, in a world where globalisation has broken down so many borders, in which we are all said to be interconnected, do we continue to practice violence in relationships between individuals and communities?

Why do those who are different from us often frighten us so much that we adopt defensive and distrustful behaviour that all too often turns into hostile aggression?

Why do governments of states believe that the deployment of force, even through acts of war, can give them greater credibility in the eyes of their citizens and increase the consensus they enjoy?

These and other questions cannot be answered in a general and hasty manner. A commitment to study is needed, as is investment in scientific research and in the training of the younger generation.

For these reasons I considered it necessary to establish at the Pontifical Lateran University a course of study in the Sciences of Peace, based on the conviction that the Church is called to commit herself to “finding solutions to problems affecting peace, social harmony, the land, the defence of life [and] human and civil rights” (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 65).

In such a commitment, “the university world has a central role as a place that symbolises that integral humanism that needs to be continually renewed and enriched, so that it can produce the courageous cultural renewal that the present moment demands”.

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This challenge also interrogates the Church which, with its worldwide network of ecclesiastical universities, can “offer the decisive contribution of leaven, salt and light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the living Tradition of the Church, which is ever open to new situations and ideas”, as I recently recalled when I reformed the system of academic studies in ecclesiastical institutions (cf. Apostolic Constitution Veritatis Gaudium, 2).

This certainly does not mean altering the institutional sense and consolidated traditions of our academic realities, but rather orienting their function in the perspective of a Church that is more markedly “on the move” and missionary.

In fact, it is possible to face the challenges of the contemporary world with a capacity of response that is adequate in terms of content and compatible in terms of language first of all by addressing the new generations (Letter to Cardinal De Donatis on the occasion of the establishment of the new course of studies in “Sciences of Peace”, November 12, 2018).

This volume offers a first overview of some of the centres of interest of this new academic enterprise. It is necessarily interdisciplinary and gives voice to a fruitful dialogue between philosophy, theology, law and history.

I am confident that a rigorous deepening of these lines of research, fed also by the contributions of the human sciences, will foster the growth of a “knowledge of peace” to train truly valuable peacemakers, ready to put themselves into service in the most diverse areas of the life of our societies.

I would like to emphasise that a good peace worker must be able to mature a view of the world and of history that does not fall into a “diagnostic overload” which is not always accompanied by improved and actually applicable methods of treatment (Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii gaudium, 50).

It is a question, in fact, of going beyond a purely sociological approach which seeks to embrace the totality of reality in a neutral and aseptic manner.

Those who wish to become experts in the science of peace must learn to be attentive to the signs of the times: a taste for research and scientific study must be accompanied by a heart capable of sharing “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the men of this age” (Vatican II Ecumenical Council, Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 1), in order to know how to undertake a truly evangelical discernment.

We really need men and women who are well-prepared and equipped with all the tools necessary to read and interpret the social, economic and political dynamics of our time.

A commitment to these paths of formation can be a valid help for many young people to discover that “the lay vocation is directed above all to charity within the family and to social and political charity. It is a concrete and faith-based commitment to the building of a new society. It involves living in the midst of society and the world in order to bring the Gospel everywhere, to work for the growth of peace, harmony, justice, human rights and mercy, and thus for the extension of God’s kingdom in this world” (Postsynodal Apostolic Exhortation Christus vivit, 168).

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I am grateful to Professor Marengo, who has edited this volume, as well as to the authors whose contributions open the way for the maturation of this indispensable field of scientific research that is destined to nourish practices of peace and harmony among men and peoples.

More papal texts, on Novena:

In new book, Pope gives sneak peek of forthcoming encyclical, rails against “savage market economy” and “violent social injustice”

Pope urges “ecological retooling” of economy to counter “inhuman” pace of production, consumption

Pope reminds humanity on Day of Prayer for Creation: “We are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters”

Pope to sign in Assisi October 3 new encyclical on need for “human and ecological conversion”, “human fraternity”

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Cameron Doody

Director and editor at Novena
PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. Lecturer in ethics at Loyola University Maryland, Alcalá de Henares (Spain) campus. Religion journalist with 4 years experience.