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Holy See on the New Europe (Part 2)

Interview With Archbishop Lajolo, Vatican Secretary for Relations with States

VATICAN CITY, NOV. 6, 2004 (Zenit) - Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's secretary for relations with states, touched on democracy, development and other issues in this Oct. 29 interview with the Italian newspaper La Stampa.

Part 1 of this interview appeared Thursday.

Q: Among the most debated political topics in Europe, increasingly ethical issues arise, ranging from those affecting the family to those related to scientific research. The liberal principles in which European states are inspired tend to exclude interference in the options of the individual. The Church, however, seems to be appealing to states to establish norms, in other words, to interfere in the private life of individuals to orient their behavior. Isn't there a danger that these appeals will be perceived as an attempt to impose a truth even on those who do not acknowledge it? Isn't this one of the possible reasons for the atmosphere of anti-Catholic prejudice that, according to some, is growing in Europe?

Archbishop Lajolo: That every individual must make moral, ethical and political decision in full freedom, and that such decisions must be respect is, I would say, a Christian rather than liberal dogma.

But truth frees man. And because of this, the Church cannot remain silent and not explain what she knows to be the truth -- and it is truth that frees man.

One must keep in mind that, when the Church intervenes on the great moral issues posed by the political context, it does not present proofs of faith, but gives arguments based on reason, which she considers valid and, therefore, acceptable also for those who do not believe.

For example, on the important questions on which the human embryo is at risk, what is the Church really saying? The only thing the Church does is to repeat that the human embryo is not a different individual reality from the fetus, the unborn or born child, the adult he will become. It is a truth based on pure reason and it is a scientific truth.

The embryo, therefore, must be protected in its human dignity and in its right to life, just like us, adults. It cannot be manipulated as a means to achieve an end, regardless how noble that end is.

The same must be said about the important topics that are proper to the social doctrine of the Church. We give arguments of reason, valid in themselves, not arguments of faith, even if they are inspired by faith and confirmed by it.

I wish to say, moreover, that those who believe that the Church should restrict herself to a role of "spiritual direction," circumscribed to the realm of the inner conscience, are profoundly deceived: It is a question of the "city built on the hilltop," to use an expression of the Gospel.

Q: In the recent Social Week of Italian Catholics in Bologna, it was stated that democracy cannot be imposed in the world with war. In fact, the Pope has always been opposed to war. Therefore, is there no just war, not even to defend oneself against aggression, a terrorist attack such as that of Sept. 11 in New York?

Archbishop Lajolo: The most authoritative text that illustrates the doctrine of the Church in this connection continues to be the pastoral constitution "Gaudium et Spes," No. 79, of the Second Vatican Council.

At the origin of all wars are human errors: great and never sufficiently lamented, if one thinks of the innocent people who pay for them with their lives.

But to defend a people from an unjust aggressor not only can be licit but also a duty, and for this reason the Holy See has not hesitated to request that the U.N. be given adequate powers to intervene in a rapid and effective way in the case of a "humanitarian emergency."

The greatest commitment, however, must be to avoid war and to foster peace. This is what the conciliar constitution says in several paragraphs in its beautiful Latin: "de pace fovenda" [on the duty to promote peace] and "de bello vitando" [on the duty to avoid war].

But, as regards democracy, I think the following must be said: Undeniably, all men are born free and wish to decide freely on what affects them in private and public life. But democracy is a complex political system that cannot be improvised. It is linked to certain suppositions of history, juridical civilization and social culture.

Therefore, it is in reference to these suppositions, that a work of preparation must be based, of patient and wide outlook, to enlarge the instances of democracy in humanity, something that is desirable.

Q: It seems that the world appeals ever more frequently to the moral authority of the Pope to resolve its conflicts. There is awareness of the weakness of the U.N. as an organization capable of addressing international crises with concrete efficiency. In this context, is it not justifiable for the United States, even if there is no agreement with the U.N., to be able to defend itself from terrorism by striking those states that seem to support it?

Archbishop Lajolo: Terrorism must be combated without reservations. One must intervene in time. However, to put out the powder kegs one cannot do without a multilateral action, beginning with the information services.

But, above all, the profound causes must be addressed which make them possible and fuel them. The causes are political, social and cultural and, unfortunately, also linked to the abuse of religion.

The opening of cultural exchanges, especially at the level of universities and youth, the prospect of positive trade developments and the increase in the flow of tourists can also do much.

The Pope, unarmed prophet, continues to indicate tirelessly the paths of peace, concord and collaboration among peoples. I am pleased to hear you say that his moral authority is acknowledged.

I also see this, very frequently, in the diplomatic world, expressed even by non-Christian personalities. But, on occasions, the paths of peace exact more courage than the paths of war.

Q: Can you indicate, concretely, what Europe could do in favor of peace in the world?

Archbishop Lajolo: Paul VI's words are well known: "Development is the new name of peace." I think that, in view of possible future scenarios, and contemplating the human dramas of emigration, which take place before our eyes, Europe could commit itself more thoroughly in helping African countries.

From the resolution of the U.N. General Assembly of October 1970 -- taken up again in numerous international conferences -- to the conference organized by the United Nations on the financing of development, in March 2002, the objective has been re-established to dedicate 0.7% of the GNP of the most prosperous countries to the development of the poor countries.

In the New York summit of last September 20, against hunger and poverty, the delegation of the Holy See, led by Cardinal Angelo Sodano, secretary of state, insisted greatly on this point. At present the quota of most of the European countries is only around 0.2% or 0.3%.

A very concrete measure, with undoubted beneficial effects, would be to fulfill this commitment, especially in regard to the most needy African countries, before which several European states have historical debts.

Moreover, the new structures of the European Union open to Europe important possibilities of intervention with strong political and moral weight in areas where peace is threatened or violated.

But now the conversation is widening and I should talk again about the "Christian roots," as, in addition to justice and law, peace requires higher values, such as solidarity and reconciliation among peoples.


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