Peace & Justice 1 - Introduction On 17th April 2002, as guest of “Christenen in Brugge 2002” (Christians in Bruges 2002), Cardinal Jan Schotte (1925-2005) gave a speech in the context of Bruges as Cultural Capital of Europe. Cardinal Schotte was a well-known personality, resident in Rome, where for nineteen years he was responsible for the organisation of the extraordinary synods of bishops. He was also president of staffing matters in the Vatican and a judge with the courts of cassation of the Catholic Church and of Vatican City. His speech was given against the background of the occupation of the complex of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, the bitter sequel to an escalation of the PalestinianIsraeli conflict. The occupation was a previously unknown and dramatic violation of the centuries-old custom of mutual respect between the belief groups going back as far as the Ottoman Empire. At the time there were 250 people in the complex, the majority being armed Palestinians, with 30 Franciscans, four Franciscan nuns, five Greek Orthodox and nine Armenian Orthodox monks. Terrorism, Schotte stated to his audience, must always be condemned since no-one can condone terrorism in any form. There are no grounds for terrorism: from an adder’s brood no peace can come! But a condemnation of this kind ‘must’ be uttered without losing sight of the unjust circumstances and the oppressive humiliations suffered by the people from which that terrorism springs. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siege_of_the_Church_of_the_Nativity_in_Bethlehem) 2 – Our cultural heritage has been trapped In the past, Cardinal Schotte was for five years Secretary and Vice-Chairman of the Papal Commission “Iustitia et Pax” (for Justice and Peace). Thus he knew what he was talking about. His speech began as follows: «« The true treasure of Europe lies in its patrimony of Christian principles. That is what enriches us, what binds us together in Europe, much more so even than geography. At present the Christian patrimony of Europe is being questioned. We only have to think about the discussions surrounding the drawing up of a European Constitution. Two days ago, in Rome, the Vice-Chairman of the group charged with drawing up the constitution promised to do his best to include the cultural patrimony of Christian origin in the constitution. But he was unable to make a firm promise in that regard. (1) The values of our Christian patrimony are being questioned, for a
variety of reasons. Thus, for instance, secularisation is making swift progress, secularisation which, in an age of apparently unlimited technological progress, finds many of our historically-based values superfluous or which pretends that technology and science must be allowed to solve all the problems that we humans are having to confront. In a certain sense we have reached the point where a new edition or a reprint of rationalism is required, that system of thought that sets man up as the only criterion of our entire existence. We too, Christians and Catholics, are living under the pressure of this culture shift. »» 3 – Justice and Peace: a binomium Then the Cardinal went deeper into the meaning of the concept of ‘Justice and Peace’, saying the following: «« ‘Peace and justice’ is what is known in Latin as a binomium, a double term: one concept consisting of two components. This particular binomium is derived from the prophecy of Zechariah, 9:9-10: “Tell the daughter of Sion, ‘Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey… He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be from sea to sea, And from the river to the ends of the earth.” And yet in the Middle Ages, and even long afterwards, peace and justice were mainly seen as separate entities. This can be seen in various tracts written by the Church’s moral theologians. But by the end of the 20th century we can say with certainty that the undeniable relationship between ‘justice and peace’ has been more and more accepted, something that can be seen in Church doctrine on the subject. In the tradition of Catholic morals we find principles related to personal justice, of distributive justice in our relationships with others, and also in relationship to international justice as regards the relationships between countries. (…) That link between justice and peace in the relationships between different countries is now very generally accepted. It was clearly stated by Benedict XV after the First World War after the establishment of the League of Nations. Pius XII had as his motto: “Opus Iustitiæ Pax”: Peace is the work of Justice. Under Pope John XXIII the connection was given strong emphasis and from Paul VI we have the expression “development is the new name for peace”. »» Cardinal Schotte also stated the following. Within the Church the binomium has become a single concept; Peace and Justice go together. And this has also happened in the world of international politics. When the United Nations was established in 1945, the link was laid from the start with the establishment of the Security Council, where political matters are dealt with in relation to security in peace in the various nations, and with the founding of the Economic and Social Council that was set up to deal with problems of justice. The same combination – justice and peace, peace and justice – has also been set as the basic
assumption in all other bodies of the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, dealing with problems in the field of work, and the International Atomic Energy Agency, where security is sought with regard to nuclear energy.
Ilana Mercer stated: “The Jewish perspective pivots on the ‘passion for justice’, wrote my father Rabbi B. Isaacson in the International Jewish Encyclopedia. Justice always precedes and is a prerequisite for mercy (…) mercy without justice is no mercy at all.”
4 - Conclusion Everywhere the binomium “peace and justice” has entered the collective conscience, and the two concepts are now inseparable. And for us, believers, this must become a part of our thought processes so that peace and justice are always seen together – and that despite the fact that in today’s world we can observe everywhere a situation in which lack of peace and injustice prevail. This presents the Church with a challenge to present the message of the Gospel by way of contrast. In the difficult and apparently impossible task of turning the current situation into one of peace and justice we can find solid ground in the text from Zechariah already quoted. The same text is repeated in the Gospel of Matthew at the glorious entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. Then, as now, the world was characterised and shocked by lack of peace and the presence of injustice. Hubert Luns [Published in “Positief” February 2003 – No. 329. The complete text of the speech was published in the Bruges Diocesan Newsletter – Ministrando 38-6.]
Note: (1) In the end, the principle of the defence of our Christian heritage was not given a place in the context of the European Constitution, which was rejected in 2005 after various national referenda.
Published on Dec 23, 2009
We must learn to see as believers that peace and justice are always seen together, despite the fact that in today’s world we can observe eve...