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Pope Urges New Culture of Nonviolence for World Politics

Francis cited Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. as models of nonviolent peacemakers in his annual message for the Catholic Church's World Day of Peace

Pope Francis blesses faithful, during the Angelus prayer from his studio overlooking St. Peter's Square, at the Vatican, Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, photo: AP/Giorgio Onorati
9 months ago

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis is calling for a renewed culture of nonviolence to inform global politics today, saying military responses to conflicts only breed more violence.

Francis cited Mother Teresa, Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. as models of nonviolent peacemakers in his annual message for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, which is celebrated each Jan. 1.

“Violence is not the cure for our broken world,” read the message released Monday. “Countering violence with violence leads at best to forced migrations and enormous suffering.”

Earlier this year, the Vatican hosted a conference of peace activists who called on the Catholic Church to renounce its “just war” doctrine, which condones the use of force to stop an unjust aggression if certain conditions are met. The activists urged a new peacemaking framework based on Gospel-mandated nonviolence, arguing that too often the “just war” doctrine had been used to justify and endorse military action rather than prevent it.

They called for Francis to develop an encyclical on “active nonviolence.”

At a news conference launching the message Monday, Francis’ point-man on justice and peace issues, Cardinal Peter Turkson, said he couldn’t rule out a possible encyclical or a special gathering of bishops on the theme of nonviolence. He said the church’s current “just war” theory was no longer adequate for today’s world.

Francis, named after the peace-loving St. Francis of Assisi, has echoed his predecessors in condemning wars and promoting peace. But he has also endorsed military action to stave off the Islamic State group’s attacks on Christians in Iraq and Syria.

That said, on Monday he sent a letter to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the international community urging an end to the Syrian conflict. In the letter, Francis condemned all forms of “extremism and terrorism from whatever quarter they may come, and (appealed) to the president to ensure that international humanitarian law is fully respected with regard to the protection of the civilians and access to humanitarian aid,” the Vatican said.

In his world peace message, Francis repeated the Vatican’s call for the prohibition and abolition of nuclear weapons, and added: “I plead with equal urgency for an end to domestic violence and to the abuse of women and children.”

In fact, he said, women are often the leaders in nonviolence, citing Nobel Peace Prize winner Leymah Gbowee of Liberia. He praised her and the thousands of other Liberian women whose nonviolent protests helped end Liberia’s civil war.


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