Pope John Paul II:
Why I say no to war
as at the beginning of this millennium has humanity felt how precarious
is the world which it has shaped. I have been personally struck by
the feeling of fear which often dwells in the hearts of our contemporaries.
An insidious terrorism capable of striking at any time and anywhere;
the unresolved problem of the Middle East, with the Holy Land and
Iraq; the turmoil disrupting South America; the conflicts preventing
numerous African countries from focusing on their development; the
diseases spreading contagion and death; the grave problem of famine,
especially in Africa; irresponsible behaviour contributing to the
depletion of the planet's resources; all these are so many plagues
threatening the survival of humanity, the peace of individuals, and
the security of societies.
Yet everything can change. It depends on each of us. Everyone can
develop within himself his potential for faith, for honesty, for
respect of others, and for commitment to the service of others.
That is why choices must be made so that humanity can still have
a future, and therefore the peoples of the earth and their leaders
must sometimes have the courage to say "No".
I say: NO TO WAR! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat
International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between states, the
noble exercise of diplomacy; these are methods worthy of individuals
and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think
of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons, and as I
think of the all too numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage
our brothers and sisters in humanity. Bethlehem reminds us of the
unresolved crisis in the Middle East, where two peoples, Israeli
and Palestinian, are called to live side by side, equally free and
sovereign, in mutual respect.
Faced with the constant degeneration of the crisis in the Middle
East, I say to you that the solution will never be imposed by recourse
to terrorism or armed conflict, as if military victories could be
And what are we to say about the threat of a war which could strike
the people of Iraq, the land of the Prophets, a people already sorely
tried by more than 12 years of embargo? War is never just another
means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between
As the charter of the United Nations Organisation and international
law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is
a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option
and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the
consequences for the civilian population both during and after the
All states are interconnected both for better and for worse. For
this reason, and rightly so, we must be able to distinguish good
from evil and call them by their proper names. And history has taught
us time and time again that it is when doubt or confusion about what
is right and what is wrong prevails that the greatest evils are to
If we are to avoid descending into chaos, it seems to me that two
conditions must be met. First, we must rediscover both within states
and between states the paramount value of natural law, which was
the source of inspiration for the rights of nations and for the first
formulations of international law.
Second, we need the persevering work of statesmen who are honest
and selfless; in effect, the indispensable professional competence
of political leaders has no legitimacy unless it is connected to
strong moral convictions.
It will always be possible for a leader who acts in accordance with
his convictions to reject situations of injustice or institutional
corruption, or to put an end to them. It is precisely in this, I
believe, that we rediscover what is today commonly called good governance.
The material and spiritual wellbeing of humanity, the protection
of the freedom and rights of the human person, selfless public service,
closeness to concrete conditions: all of these take precedence over
every political project and constitute a moral necessity which itself
is the best guarantee of peace within nations and peace between nations.
May all of us who have gathered in this place, which is a symbol
of spirituality, dialogue and peace, contribute by our daily actions
to the advancement of all the peoples of the earth, in justice and
harmony, to their progress towards greater happiness and greater
justice, far from poverty, violence and threats of war.
From an address at the Vatican to diplomats
accredited to the Holy See, 13 January 2003:
Bethlehem! The Holy Land! The tragic enduring tension in which this
Middle Eastern region lives makes more urgent the search for a positive
solution to the fratricidal and senseless conflict which has shed
blood for too long.
It requires the co-operation of all who believe in God and who know
that true religious feeling, far from setting individuals and peoples
against one another, urges them to build together a world of peace.
From New Year Homily, 1 January 2003:
As an essential part of its fight against all forms of terrorism,
the international community is called to undertake new and creative
political, diplomatic and economic initiatives aimed at relieving
the scandalous situations of gross injustice, oppression and marginalisation
which continue to oppress countless members of the human family.
History shows that the recruitment of terrorists is more easily
achieved in areas where human rights are trampled upon and where
injustice is a part of daily life.
From an address welcoming Kathryn Colvin,
the new British Ambassador to the Holy See, 7 September 2002:
The religions should not be used as a tragic excuse for enmities
which have their origins elsewhere.
No one has the right to call upon God to justify their own selfish
interests. I ask all religious leaders to reject all violence as
offensive to the name of God and to be tireless promoters of peace
From an address in Muslim Azerbaijan, 22
The dire consequences of the tragic events of September 11 are still
The spiral of violence and armed hostility in the Holy Land - the
land of our Lord's birth, death and resurrection, and the land held
sacred by the three great monotheistic religions - has increased
to unimaginable and intolerable levels.
From a speech to the Papal Foundation,
8 April 2002:
To all of you I say: together we must firmly oppose the temptations
of hatred and violence which give only the illusion of resolving
conflicts while causing real and permanent damage.
Instead, forgiveness, which can appear to be weakness, demands great
spiritual strength and guarantees long term advantages.
From the Angelus New Year Prayer, 1 January
There is no peace without justice, and no justice without forgiveness.
New Year world peace message, 2002:
We must multiply our efforts for peace. One cannot stand idle in
front of terrorist attacks, but equally one cannot stand idle in
the face of the war now appearing on the horizon. There is no need
to resign oneself almost as if war were inevitable.
Dear friends, offer your experience to the cause of peace, an experience
of true brother/sisterhood which leads us to recognise in each other
brothers/sisters whom we should love unconditionally.
Only this is the path which leads to peace, dialogue, hope and true