Morality must inspire law of nations
On Monday, 13 January, 1997, the Holy Father received the members
of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, who had come
to the Apostolic Palace for the traditional exchange of New Year's
greetings. Speaking on behalf of the diplomats was H.E. Mr. Joseph
Amichia, Ambassador of Cote d'Ivoire, the outgoing dean of the
corps, who expressed their appreciation of the Pope's efforts for
the sake of world peace, brotherhood and solidarity.
The Holy Father in turn extended his gratitude to the ambassadors
and assured them that the well-being of their countries was in his
thoughts and prayers. He also made a rapid review of world events
expressing his hopes for peace and his concern over various
situations in which the right of peoples to security and
independence is at risk. "The international community ... must not
only find a remedy for the indifference recently shown with regard
to the humanitarian tragedies which the entire world has witnessed
but also increase its political activity lest new tragic developments, the carving up of territories or the displacement of populations, create situations which no one will be able to control The security of a country or region cannot be founded on the accumulation of risks", the Pope said.
Here is a translation of the Holy Father's address to the Diplomatic Corps, which was given in French.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
1. Your Dean, Ambassador Joseph Amichia, has just presented to me
your cordial greetings with his usual serenity and graciousness.
He has done this for the last time, since after more than 25 years
he will soon return definitively to his beloved Cote d'Ivoire. In
your name I would like to offer to him, to his wife and family and
to all his fellow-citizens our best wishes for a future which will
enable them to realize their most cherished aspirations.
To all of you, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I offer
cordial thanks for your greetings and good wishes; and I am
grateful for the signs of appreciation which you so often show for
the international activity of the Holy See. I will shortly have
the opportunity to greet you personally and to express to you my
sentiments of esteem. Through you, I would also like to send my
affectionate and prayerful good wishes to the leaders of your
countries and to your fellow-citizens. May the year 1997 mark a
decisive stage in the establishment of peace and a prosperity more
fully shared by all the peoples of the earth!
In my Message for the 1997 World Day of Peace, I invited all
people of good will to "set out together on a true pilgrimage of
peace, starting from the concrete situation in which we find
ourselves" (n. 1). How better to begin if not with you, Ladies and
Gentlemen, who are expert and attentive observers of international
life? At the beginning of this year, what is the state of hope and
peace? This is the question which, together with you, I would like
Signs of hope in today's world
2. <Hope>. Very fortunately, hope is not absent from the horizon
of humanity. <Disarmament> has taken important steps forward with
the signing of the treaty completely banning nuclear testing, a
treaty which the Holy See also signed, in the hope that it will be
accepted by everyone. From now on the nuclear arms race and the
proliferation of nuclear weapons have been banned from society.
This must not however make us less vigilant with regard to the
production of increasingly sophisticated <conventional and
chemical weapons>, or indifferent to the problems caused by anti-
personnel mines. Regarding the latter, I express the hope that a
juridically binding agreement with appropriate provisions for
inspection will see the light of day at the meeting scheduled in
Brussels next June. Everything must be done in order to build a
Almost all Governments, meeting in Istanbul under the auspices of
the United Nations Organization for the Second Conference on Human Settlements and in Rome for the World Summit of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, have made concrete commitments with a view to better reconciling <development, economic growth> and <solidarity.> The right to housing and the equitable sharing of
the earth's resources emerged as priorities for the future: these
represent decisive steps forward.
We must likewise take note of the agreement reached at the end of
the year in Abidjan for peace in <Sierra Leone>, while at the same
time expressing the hope that disarmament and the demobilization
of the armed forces will take place without delay. May the same
come true in neighbouring <Liberia>, itself engaged in a difficult
process of normalization and of preparation for free elections.
In <Guatemala>, peace seems finally to be at hand after too many
years of fratricidal conflict. The agreement signed on 29 December
last, by creating a climate of trust, should favour the settlement, in unity and with courage, of the many social problems still to be resolved.
Turning our gaze towards Asia, we await the date of 1 July 1997,
when <Hong Kong> will return under the sovereignty of mainland
China. By reason of the size and vitality of the Catholic community living in the territory, the Holy See will follow with very particular interest this new stage, trusting that respect for differences, for the fundamental rights of the human person and for the rule of law will accompany this new journey forward, prepared for by patient negotiations.
A still precarious peace
3. In the second place, <peace.> It still seems precarious in more
than one place on the earth and, in any event, it is always at the
mercy of the self-interest and the lack of proper foresight on the
part of many leaders of international life.
Quite near to us, <Algeria> continues to wallow in an abyss of
unprecedented violence, giving a bleak impression of an entire
people taken hostage. The Catholic Church in Algeria paid a heavy
price last year, with the barbaric murder of the seven Trappist
monks of Notre-Dame de l'Atlas, and the brutal death of Bishop
Pierre Claverie of Oran. <Cyprus>, still split in two, awaits a
political solution, which ought to be worked out in a European
context which would offer it a broader variety of possibilities.
And then, on the Eastern shore of the Mediterranean, the <Middle
East> continues to search uncertainly for the road to peace.
Everything must be tried to en sure that the sacrifices and
efforts of these past years, since the Madrid Conference, will not
have been in vain. For Christians in particular, this "Holy Land.
remains the place where there first was heard the message of love
and reconciliation: "Peace on earth to men of good will!".
All people together, Jews, Christians and Muslims, Israelis and
Arabs, believers and non-believers, must create and reinforce
peace: the peace of treaties the peace of trust, the peace in
people's hearts! In this part of the world, as elsewhere. peace
cannot be just nor can it long endure unless it rests on sincere
dialogue between equal partners, with respect for each other's
identity and history, unless-it rests on the right of peoples to
the free determination of their own destiny, upon their
independence and security. There can be no exception! And all
those who have accompanied the parties most directly involved in
the difficult Middle East peace process must redouble their
efforts to ensure that the modest capital of trust already
accumulated is not wasted, but rather increases and bears
In recent few months, a hotbed of tension has dramatically
enveloped the entire <region of the Great Lakes in Africa.>
Burundi, Rwanda and Zaire in particular have found themselves
trapped in the deadly cogs of unbridled violence and ethnic
rivalry, which have plunged entire nations into human tragedies
which should leave no one indifferent. No solution will ever be
worked out until the political and military leaders are seated
around the negotiating table, with the help of the international
community, in order to study together how their necessary and
unavoidable relationships should take shape. The international
community, and I include here the regional organizations of
Africa, must not only find a remedy for the indifference recently
shown with regard to the humanitarian tragedies which the entire
world has witnessed, but also increase its political activity lest
new tragic developments the carving up of territories or the
displacement of populations, create situations which no one will
be able to control. The security of a country or region cannot be
founded on the accumulation of risks.
In <Sri Lanka>, hopes for peace have been shattered in the face of
fighting which has again devastated entire regions of the island.
The persistence of these clashes is an obvious obstacle to
economic progress. There too negotiations must be taken up anew in
order to arrive at a cease-fire which will allow the future to be
planned in a more serene manner.
Looking finally at <Europe> we can see that the forging of
European institutions and the deepening of a European concept of
security and defence should ensure for the citizens of this
continent's countries a more stable future, because it will rest
on a patrimony of shared values: respect for human rights, the
primacy of liberty and democracy, the rule of law, the right to
economic and social progress. AU of this, of course, with a view
to the integral development of the human person. But Europeans too
must remain vigilant, for it is always possible to drift off
course, as the Balkan crisis has made clear: persisting ethnic
tensions, exaggerated nationalism, intolerance of every sort
constitute permanent threats. The hotbeds of tension remaining in
the Caucasus tell us that the contagion of these negative
influences can only be checked by the establishment of a true
culture of peace and of a true education in peace. For the moment,
in too many areas of Europe one has the impression that people are
coexisting rather than co-operating. We must never forget what one
of post-war Europe's "Founding Fathers" wrote as the inscription
to his memoirs, I am quoting here Jean Monnet: "We do not make
coalitions of States, we unite people!".
International law is based on certain values
4. This rapid panorama of the international situation suffices to
show that between the progress already made and the problems still
unresolved, political leaders have a broad field of action. And
what the international community perhaps lacks most of all today
is not written conventions or forums for self-expression-there is
a profusion of these! - but <a moral law> and the courage to abide
The community of nations, like every human society, cannot escape
this basic principle: it must be regulated by a rule of law, valid
for all of them without exception. Every juridical system, as we
know, has as its foundation and end the common good. And this
applies to the international community as well: the good of all
and the good of the whole!
This is what makes possible equitable solutions in which gain is
not made at the expense of others, even when those who benefit are
the majority: justice is for all, without injustice being
inflicted on anyone. The function of law is to give each person
his due, to give him what is owed to him in justice. Law therefore
has a strong moral implication. And <international law itself is
founded on values.> The dignity of the person, or guaranteeing the
rights of nations, for example, are moral principles before they
are juridical norms. And this explains why it was philosophers and
theologians who, between the 15th and 16th centuries, were the
first theorists of international society and the precursors of an
explicit recognition of <ius gentium.> Moreover, we cannot fail to
note that international law is no longer a mere law between
States, but rather tends more and more to bring individuals
together by international definitions of human rights, of the
international right to health care or the right to humanitarian
aid, to mention but a few examples.
There is thus an urgent need to organize the post-Cold War peace
and the post-1989 freedom on the foundation of moral values which
are diametrically opposed to that law which would see the
stronger, the richer or the bigger imposing on others their
cultural models, economic <diktats> or ideological models. In this
sense, attempts to form an international criminal justice system
are evidence of real progress in the moral conscience of the
nations. The development of humanitarian initiatives whether
intergovernmental or private, is also a positive sign of a
reawakening of solidarity in response to intolerable situations of
violence or injustice. But, in this same regard, we must be
careful to ensure that these acts of generosity do not rapidly
become a kind of justice of the victors, or conceal ulterior
motives of domination which would base decisions on concerns of
spheres of influence, the preservation of control or the
reconquest of trade markets.
For a long time international law has been a law of war and peace.
I believe that it is called more and more to become exclusively a
law of peace, conceived in justice and solidarity. And in this
context morality must inspire law; morality can even assume a
preparatory role in the making of law, to the extent that it shows
the path of what is right and good.
God bless you and your countries
5. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, these are the
reflections which I wished to share with you at the beginning of
the New Year. Perhaps they can' inspire your own reflection and
activity in the service of justice, solidarity and peace between
the nations which you represent.
In my prayers, I entrust to God the well-being and prosperity of
your fellow citizens, the plans of your Governments for the
spiritual and temporal good of their peoples, and the efforts of
the international community to ensure that right and law prevail.
On our pilgrimage of peace, the Christmas star guides us and shows
us mankind's true path as it invites us to follow the path of God.
May God bless you, your families and your countries; may he grant
you all a happy year!
Taken from the January 15, 1997 issue of "L'Osservatore Romano".
Editorial and Management Offices, Via del pellegrino, 00120,
Vatican City, Europe, Telephone 39/6/698.99.390.
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