at ‘peace’ Mass
Editorial: Voice of peace
The Vatican and the popes have not always been seen as benign influences. In part, this is due to the stains of history - evils such as the Inquisition are still remembered. But, at the beginning of this new century, the Church is emerging as a voice of hope and reason, not least because of its championing of peace. In the process it is also crossing ideological barriers.
The major example today of the Church as voice of peace is Pope John Paul II’s strong, almost strident, stand against the threatened US military strike on Iraq.
Indeed, he sent his former man in Washington - and friend of George Bush senior, - Cardinal Pio Laghi, to Washington to plead with the Bush administration not to go to war with Iraq.
And while the Pope’s man pleads the case against war, the Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, has gone a step further, roundly condemning pre-emptive war, calling it “murder on a grand scale; useless, unjust and intrinsically stupid”.
Shades of Jesus’ outspoken condemnation of wrongs here.
The Vatican and the Pope are also beginning to emerge as major critics of globalisation, which is really just a new word for old-fashioned international capitalism in its most rapacious form. Its dire effect on humanity’s weakest is something Rome has spoken out about on a number of occasions recently. In doing so, Rome has crossed traditional left-right ideological boundaries; this is, after all, the papacy that railed against communism and helped bring down the Berlin Wall.
The Pope and the Vatican’s efforts to bring about peace and economic justice have their echo locally, too.
For example, the Ash Wednesday Mass celebrated by Archbishop Pell at St Mary’s Cathedral last week welcomed two members of Sydney’s Islamic Council. They joined the archbishop and Caritas for tea afterwards (the Mass also launched Caritas’ annual fundraiser, Project Compassion). Of such small and hospitable gestures are peace and friendship built. It is worth noting that Caritas’ theme this year, freedom from slavery, deals with issues of economic justice.
Meanwhile, in Hyde Park, a noisier peace initiative was taking place - a school student demonstration against war with Iraq. It was quite chaotic; it literally stopped the traffic.
It also involved a lot of wet, silly teenagers, who were enjoying the park fountain and a day off school. But it was all in a good cause and teens can’t help being boisterous. And, yes, there were Catholic school uniforms in evidence, but the teachers will surely turn a blind eye to their absence given it was in such a good cause.
The future is built on such youthful idealism. If the young don’t believe in peace and justice the world is indeed lost.