Holy Father's Address to Diplomatic Corps

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.


Your Excellencies

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

to answer.


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

safer world!


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

by it.


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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