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The Culture of Peace

Study Examines Role of John Paul II

ROME, JULY 24, 2005 (Zenit) - A book published this year analyzes the contribution made by Pope John Paul II to the culture of peace. "Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and the Culture of Peace" was written by Bernard O'Connor, a priest from the Diocese of Antigonish, in Nova Scotia, who now works in the Vatican's Congregation for Eastern Churches.

The book includes a selection of addresses to the diplomatic corps as well as speeches to ambassadors and the United Nations. The material is divided into four chapters, each preceded by an introduction in which Father O'Connor outlines what he sees as the main contributions to the culture of peace contained in the documents. The book finishes with an essay by the priest on John Paul II's role in international diplomacy.

In the introduction Father O'Connor notes that John Paul II used the phrase "culture of peace" constantly in his speeches on international matters. This reflected "the Pope's conviction that the diplomatic process is inherently capable of reinforcing the deepest aspirations of mankind."

But it is not an abstract ideal. Rather, this peace is a consequence of humanity's efforts to promote global community and solidarity. The pillars of this community are cooperation, dialogue, reciprocity, and commitment to the irreplaceable dignity of all persons.

The introduction to each chapter lists a number of traits of the culture of peace contained in the documents. In the first chapter, containing the addresses to the diplomatic corps, they are:

-- A natural courtesy. The messages always begin with a greeting and contain expressions of gratitude.

-- A disciplined challenge. John Paul II warns diplomats that the dialogue for peace is not easy and is analogous to the biblical merchants search for fine pearls.

-- Transformation of the will. Security comes from choices born of the will. The culture of peace asks that the will be guided by rationality.

-- A thirst for freedom. The evolution toward freedom is not something automatic. Freedom is linked to truth and justice.

-- Resisting the temptation to abandon hope. We should not despair. The culture of peace is witness to mankind's capacity to comfort sorrow and to relieve pain.

-- Attention to moral responsibility. The state has moral obligations toward the culture of peace: openness in administration; impartiality; just and honest use of public funds; the rejection of illicit means. The culture of peace does not accept a utilitarian philosophy that allows any means to be used, or ignores the intrinsic worth of persons.

-- The rule of law. Law gives each person his due and what is owed in justice.

-- Receptive to the benefits offered by religion. The Pope rejected efforts to confine churches within the religious sphere alone. Religion has a gift to make to social development.

-- Structuring priorities. Humanity's dilemmas are no excuse for passivity. Humanity must face up to its problems and use its resources to overcome obstacles.

-- Ensuring dialogue. Governments need to have structures that allow for dialogue with communities of believers. The appeal to dialogue, together with the formal means to implement it are crucial to the Pope's perspective on peace.


The chapter containing speeches to ambassadors who presented their credentials contains a further selection of traits, namely:

-- Constructive reciprocity. This reciprocity is conceived of as a forum in which states inform each other of their needs and preoccupations. It is also a forum in which endeavors can be made to improve the world.

-- Solidarity and responsibility. This involves an ethical commitment to those in need. There is an obligation to counter the internal and external threats to the dignity of man.

-- Updating an inherited outlook. The concept of human rights is old, but needs to be revised in the light of current problems, in particular the need to establish a juridical order that can regulate international matters.

-- Accepting people. International aid should not overlook the way a country wants to safeguard the wishes of its people. What is intrinsic to a people's identity must not be attacked or obliterated.

-- Pluralism. A state's non-confessional position and the guarantee of religious freedom for its citizens does not exclude agreements with the Holy See on specific questions.

-- A humanistic spirit in foreign policy. The Pope commends tolerance and generosity. The culture of peace needs to be aware of the common good and attentive to the needs of minorities and those in economic need.

-- A climate of trust. The resolution of problems flows not only from the process of dialogue, but from the trust that imbues that ...

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