Pope Francis on Monday urged the “abolition of war” while meeting participants in a training course for military chaplains jointly organized by the Congregation for Bishops, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.
The course explored some of the current challenges of international humanitarian law regarding the protection of human dignity during internal armed conflicts and the so-called “new conflicts.”
Pope Francis told the participants the issue is “unfortunately, very topical” due to the increased violence and armed conflicts in different parts of the world, such as Africa, Europe, and the Middle East.
“In this age, in which we are experiencing a ‘piecemeal third world war ‘, you are called upon to supply the military and their families with the spiritual and ethical dimensions which help them to face the difficulties and often harrowing questions inherent in this peculiar service to their country and to humanity,” he said.
“Many soldiers return from war operations or peacemaking missions with real inner wounds,” Pope Francis said. “War can leave an indelible mark in them. War, in fact, always leaves an indelible mark.”
Pope Francis said it is appropriate to wonder how to treat the spiritual wounds of soldiers who have witnessed atrocities during war.
“These people and their families require specific pastoral attention, which allows them to feel the maternal presence of the Church,” Pope Francis said. “The role of the chaplain is to accompany them and support them in their journey, as a fraternal and comforting presence.”
Pope Francis also spoke of the role humanitarian law plays in safeguarding the essential principles of humanity in a context which is “itself dehumanizing.”
The Holy Father pointed out humanitarian law aims to protect non-combatants; tries to ban weapons which cause horrible and unnecessary suffering,; and attempts to protect the natural environment and cultural heritage. He said because of this important mission, humanitarian law deserves to be “promoted and spread” among all militaries and armed forces, “including non-state actors.”
“In addition, it needs to be further developed, to deal with the new reality of the war, which today, unfortunately, uses increasingly deadly tools,” said Pope Francis.
“However, as Christians, we are deeply convinced that the ultimate goal, the most worthy of the person and the human community, is the abolition of war,” he said.
“Therefore, we must always strive to build bridges that bring us together, and not walls that keep us apart; we always have to help search for an opening to mediation and reconciliation; we must never give in to the temptation of considering the other only as an enemy to be destroyed, but rather as a person, endowed with inherent dignity, created by God in His image,” Pope Francis said.
“Even in the midst of the lacerations of war” – the Holy Father said – “we must never get tired of remembering that each person is extraordinarily sacred.”