Pope calls for 'disarmament of the heart'

 "Mankind has made considerable progress in science and technology. The human genius has produced fruits that were unimaginable just decades ago. And yet, there are still parts of the world that have not reached an adequate level of human and material development; many people and nations are deprived of their most basic rights and freedoms...the number of people marginalized and in misery appears to be on the rise. Although the world's process of globalization has opened new horizons, this does not imply that it has obtained the expected results." These were the opening words of the Holy Father Benedict XVI in his message to the participants of the International Seminar organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace on the theme of: "Disarmament, development, and peace: perspectives for holistic disarmament." The Pope noted that "today the international community seems to have gone astray. In various parts of the world, tensions and war persist. Even those who do not live in war-torn nations are filled with sentiments of fear and insecurity. As well, violence such as terrorism, that is becoming more widespread on a worldly scale, weakens the barriers between peace and war, seriously placing in jeopardy the hope for the future of mankind." In response to this challenge, there is certainly a need for common action on a political, economic, and juridical level. However, above all, the Pope insists, "a mutual reflection on a moral and spiritual level is needed; there is an ever-more urgent and apparent need to promote a 'new humanism,' that enlightens man in the understanding of himself and in the meaning of his own path in history." Development, therefore, should not be reduced to mere economic progress, but instead should encompass the moral and spiritual dimensions, seeing as "an authentic holistic humanism that is both firm and supportive is one of the highest expressions of the human spirit... Man, therefore, when he works to obtain only material goods and remains enclosed in himself, he cuts himself off from the way that leads to fullness of life and true happiness." In his Message, the Pope explained the interdependence among the three topics in the Seminar: disarmament, development, and peace. "An authentic and lasting peace that excludes the development of each person and nation is inconceivable...Nor is a disarmament possible, if violence is not uprooted - that is, if man does not decide to work for peace, what is good, and what is just. War, like all forms of evil, finds its origin in man's heart. In this sense, disarmament does not only refer to the arms of governments, but rather it implies every, called to disarm his own heart and to become a peacemaker in every circumstance." Recognizing the right to legitimate defense as an unalienable right of a nation, the Pope emphasized that this "does not legitimize all kinds of armament," because "every nation should posses only the arms necessary for assuring its own legitimate defense," otherwise the arms, "instead of ensuring peace, present the risk of becoming a tragic preparation for war." Making reference to the close relationship between disarmament and development, the Pope explained that "the immense quantity of human and material resources spent on militaries and their armament is often a diversion from the paths of nations' progress, especially in areas where there is most poverty and need." In spite of the many conflicts of the past, today the manufacturing and selling of arms is constantly increasing and becoming a driving force in civil and military economy. Therefore, the Pope renews his appeal "that the nations may reduce military spending on arms and seriously take into consideration the thought of creating a worldwide fund in support of the peaceful progress of nations." Returning to the themes of development and peace, Benedict XVI recalled that wars can arise from "grave violations of human rights, injustice, and misery," however we must not ignore the risk of wars "caused by the desire to expand or conserve economic dominion at the expense of others," calling them "welfare wars." Man can even reach the point of killing his brother simply in the name of material comfort and welfare, if he lacks "a coherent moral and spiritual development." The Pope stressed the urgency of "a firm decision on behalf of the international community in favor of peace," on an economic and juridical level. "A full-fledged effort is needed against the proliferation of small-scale arms and rifles that foster local fighting and street violence, and claim the lives of so many people every day throughout the world." Therefore, there is a primary need for "a conversion of man towards the good on a cultural, moral, and spiritual level. Every man, in whatever circumstance he finds himself, is called to convert to the good and work for peace, in his own heart, with his neighbour, and in the world." Recalling the teachings of his Predecessors, Benedict XVI recalled that "peace is a gift from God, a precious gift that should be sought and protected by human means" and asked that all people do their part in spreading a culture of peace and a common education towards peace, especially for the new generations. The message concluded with an invitation to hope: "reflecting on the concrete situations in which humanity is living today, one is tempted toward an attitude of justification and resignation to fighting: it seems that perhaps there is a prevailing attitude among international relations of mistrust and independence; nations divide against themselves. A widespread war, which is a terrible prophecy, is at risk for becoming a tragic reality. The war, however, is never unavoidable and peace is always possible. And necessary! The time has come to change the course of history, to restore trust, cultivate dialogue, foster solidarity." Source: Fides

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