While Pope Francis calls for a deeper understanding of just war, and acknowledges the importance of self defense, he also insists that war is a “monster“: It’s “madness,” a trick of the devil, and a tragedy in which it’s the innocent who pay, very often children.
On his way home from Kazakhstan on September 15, 2002, he recalled an anecdote from his childhood, to reflect on those who have a heart for peace.
Everybody is talking about peace today: For so many years, for 70 years, the United Nations has been talking about peace; they have been making so many speeches about peace. But right now how many wars are going on? The one you mentioned, Ukraine-Russia, now Azerbaijan and Armenia which had stopped for a while because Russia acted as a guarantor: a guarantor of peace here and makes war there… Then there is Syria, 10 years of war, what is going on there for which it never stops? What interests are moving these things? Then there is the Horn of Africa, then northern Mozambique, or Eritrea and a part of Ethiopia, then Myanmar with this suffering people that I love so much, the Rohingya people who go around and around and around like a gypsy and find no peace. But we are in a world war, please…
I remember a personal event, as a child; I was nine years old. I remember hearing the alarm of the biggest newspaper in Buenos Aires sounding: sometimes to celebrate and other times to give bad news. They would sound that alarm – now it doesn’t sound anymore – and it could be heard all over the city.
Mother said, “What’s going on?” We were in the war, the year 1945. A neighbor came to the house, and said, “The alarm sounded …” and she cried, “The war is over!” And I still see Mom and the neighbor crying with joy because the war was over, in a South American country, so far away! These women knew that peace is greater than all wars, and they cried with joy when peace was made. I cannot forget that.
In sharing that personal memory, the Pope asked, “I wonder, I don’t know if our hearts are educated well enough today to cry for joy when we see peace.”
Now, he lamented, “everything has changed,” and there’s an attitude of “if you don’t make war, you are not useful! Then there is the arms business. This is a store of assassins.”
While acknowledging that he didn’t have exact research, he shared:
Someone who understands statistics told me that if you stopped making weapons for a year you would solve all the hunger in the world – I don’t know if that’s true or not. But hunger, education; it’s no use, you can’t because you have to make weapons.
And with that, he shared the story of another group who touched him:
In Genoa a few years ago, three or four years ago, a ship arrived loaded with weapons that was going to transfer them to a bigger ship that was going to Africa, near South Sudan. The dock workers didn’t want to do it; it cost them, but they said, “I won’t cooperate.” It is an anecdote but one that makes one feel a consciousness of peace.