Conference seeks reconsideration of church ‘Just War’ teaching

“We believe that there is no ‘just war.’" Those words are at the heart of a statement published on April 14 at the conclusion of an international conference looking at changes in church practice and teaching on non-violence and peacemaking. Organized jointly by the Catholic peace network, Pax Christi International and the Vatican’s Justice and Peace Council, the three-day encounter brought together some 80 theologians and peace activists from conflict zones around the world.

The statement, presented at a press conference in the Vatican, explores the Gospel message of non-violent activism and asks Pope Francis “to share with the world an encyclical on non-violence and Just Peace.” The appeal calls for non-violent practice and strategies to be developed, promoted and taught in all church agencies, seminaries, parishes and educational institutes.

Advertisement

It also calls on the church to “no longer use or teach ‘just war’ theory which recognizes war as morally justifiable"—if a series of criteria can be met. Participants believe that modern methods of warfare make this impossible and that “too often the ‘just war theory’ has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit military action."

Among those sharing practical experiences of peace making at the conference was Archbishop Jean Baptist Odama of Gulu in northern Uganda. He said, “Any war is a destruction and there is no justice in destruction of life, of property…..so no spending of resources for the destruction of life”

Participants said on the one hand what they’re calling for is a historic change to 1,700 years of church teaching of the "just war" theory. But on the other hand, they stress it’s simply the next step in the direction that popes have been pointing over the past half century since Pope John XXIII wrote his landmark encyclical "Pacem in Terris."

Conference organisers noted the presence of nine members of the Pontifical Justice and Peace Council, including its president Cardinal Peter Turkson, at the conference, saying they believe Pope Francis is opening up “a new space” for such non-violent witness to take root.

As participants head home to the four corners of the globe, they hope this conference will mark a milestone on the road towards putting Jesus’ powerful witness to non-violent peacemaking back at the heart of the church message and mission.

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.

Advertisement

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

The news from Ireland and the United States reminds us of Herod, of Pharaoh. What culture betrays its children?
The EditorsMay 26, 2018
A woman religious casts her ballot May 25 in Dublin as Ireland holds a referendum on its law on abortion. Voters went to the polls May 25 to decide whether to liberalize the country's abortion laws. (CNS photo/Alex Fraser, Reuters)
The repeal of Ireland's Eighth Amendment, which guarantees the right to life of the unborn, has passed with a nearly 2-1 margin.
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos testifies at a House Committee on Education and the Workforce, Tuesday, May 22, 2018, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
The Secretary of Education stirred up controversy when she said it was up to schools to decide if an undocumented student should be reported to authorities.
J.D. Long-GarcíaMay 25, 2018
Thousands gathered in Dublin May 12 to say "Love Both" and "Vote No" to abortion on demand. They were protesting abortion on demand in the forthcoming referendum May 25. (CNS photo/John McElroy)
“Priests and bishops get verbal abuse by being told, ‘How can you speak for women? You don’t know what it’s like!’”
America StaffMay 25, 2018