Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pope calls for Peace

The Holy Father through his Secretary of State Cardinal Bertone has delivered a message for the promotion of peace. The message was delivered to the International Meeting of Prayer for Peace.

These annual meetings are sponsored by the Catholic lay Sant'Egidio Community. This year's event is cosponsored by the Orthodox Church of Cyprus

He said that that peace is both a gift and a task and that the 2008 meeting will also be a "powerful experience of communion."

"[The meeting] will open up a wider vision of reality and give rise to dialogue between brothers; it represents, furthermore, a moment of true, real and mutual understanding of each other's differences, as well as of the peculiarities and elements that we share," the message continued. "

Only through dialogue and sincere efforts it is possible to be integrated in this 'multiform and multifaceted linguistic cosmos' within the precious chest of Creation, which is entrusted to the common responsibility and good of every human being."

By now, one of course expects Popes to talk of peace. It is a constant message of Pontiffs. It is their duty to remind everyone of this all the time no matter the time or the place.

One of the most famous calls to peace was that of the present Pontiff`s namesake, Pope Benedict XV ( November 21, 1854 – January 22, 1922; Pope from September 3, 1914 to January 22, 1922). Cardinal Pietro Gasparri was his Cardinal Secretary of State.

From the time of his election just after the start of the First World War, he called for peace incessantly. All his calls fell on deaf ears. He was vilified by all the belligerent powers.

However in 1917, there was perhaps an opportunity for peace. There had been a debate on revising war aims, a debate that had been slowly intensifying both inside the Western camp and inside Germany since 1916, and especially since the first Russian Revolution of March 1917.

Semi-starvation in towns, mutinies in the armies, and casualty lists that seemed to have no end made more and more people question the need and the wisdom of continuing the war.

In November 1916 in Britain, Lord Lansdowne, a senior British Cabinet minister drew up a private memorandum setting out terms for a possible peace of 'accommodation'. It was circulated to the Cabinet, who expressed `complete concurrence'. The Cabinet then fell and was replaced with Lloyd George as Prime Minister as head of a reconstructed administration.

The new emperor of Austria, Charles I, and his foreign minister, Graf Ottokar Czernin, initiated peace moves in the spring of 1917 but by summer they had come to nothing.

In Germany, at the instigation of the Vatican, Matthias Erzberger, a Roman Catholic member of the Reichstag, had, on July 6, 1917, proposed that territorial annexations be renounced in order to facilitate a negotiated peace.

During the ensuing debates Bethmann Hollweg resigned the office of Chancellor, and the emperor William II appointed the next Chancellor, Ludendorff's nominee Georg Michaelis, without consulting the Reichstag. The Reichstag, offended, proceeded to pass its Friedensresolution, or “peace resolution,” of July 19 by 212 votes.

The Pope again called for peace in August 1916 and after a great deal of work by the Vatican diplomatic service, he started a peace initiative. It was a seven point proposal. Although rejected, some of the points were taken up by President Woodrow Wilson when he formulated his Fourteen Points towards peace.

His diplomatic efforts during the war served as a model in the 20th century: to the peace efforts of Pius XII before and during World War II , the policies of Paul VI during the Vietnam War and the position of John Paul II before and during the War in Iraq.

Below are copies of douments in the British National Archives in Kew, London. They are the original War Cabinet papers (Catalogue Reference:CAB/24/23) setting out Benedict XV`s proposals for peace in August 1917 which were presented to the British War Cabinet for consideration.

The proposals were ignored. The proposals floundered over the status of Belgium. The forces for war were still in the ascendant.

There followed the bloody battle of Passchendaele, with its horrendous casualties.