If you want to, you can read the full transcript of Pope Francis’ presser on the airplane as he returned to Rome from Korea. HERE
The issue of Iraq came up. American journalist Alan Holdren (Catholic News Agency/ACI PRENSA/EWTN): asked His Holiness about airstrikes.
Q: As you know, not long ago the U.S. military forces have started bombing terrorists in Iraq to prevent a genocide. To protect the future of the minorities, I think also of the Catholics under your guidance, do you approve of this American bombing (campaign)?
Thanks for such a clear question. In these cases where the is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor. I underscore the verb “stop.” I don’t saying to bomb or make war, (but) stop it. The means with which it can be stopped should be evaluated. To stop the unjust aggressor is licit. But we also have to have memory, as well, eh. How many times under this excuse of stopping the unjust aggressor the powers have taken control of nations. And, they have made a true war of conquest. One single nation cannot judge how you stop this, how you stop an unjust aggressor. After the Second World War, there was the idea of the United Nations. It must be discussed there and said ‘there’s an unjust aggressor, it seems so “How do we stop it?” Only that, nothing more. Secondly, the minorities. Thanks for the word because they speak to me of the Christians, poor Christians – it is true, they suffer – and the martyrs – and yes, there are so many martyrs – but here there are men and women, religious minorities, and not all Christian and all are equal before God, no? Stopping the unjust aggressor is a right that humanity has but it is also a right of the aggressor to be stopped so he doesn’t do evil.
As I watch the news today, some claims are being made that Pope Francis “approves” of airstrikes.
This is what I initially heard. My first reaction to his repetition of “stop”, was probably influence by my firearms training: you “stop” an aggressor. You do not have the intention to kill but to stop the aggressor from doing harm. In that light, I, too, thought for a moment that he was endorsing the use of military force.
Then I woke up.
Notice how he dodges to the “United Nations” solution. Also, that phrase about an “excuse” to take control of nations. That sounds to me to be more of a slam of these USA and Iraq than it is of Russia and Ukraine.
And what to make of that comment about the United Nations?
“After the Second World War, there was the idea of the United Nations. It must be discussed there and said ‘there’s an unjust aggressor, it seems so “How do we stop it?” Only that, nothing more.“
I could be wrong, but that sounds very much like, “We have to talk to each other for a while and then, after talking, we all can go to the unjust aggressor to talk about stopping, but we can’t do more than talk. We can’t use military force to ‘stop’ an unjust aggressor.”
Did I get that wrong? The Pope’s answer is ambiguous, but I think that was the message.
What I find puzzling is that Pope Francis did not unambiguously back up something that his representatives said the other day.
Archbp. Giorgio Lingua, the Nuncio to Baghdad, told Vatican Radio that the American strikes are “something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State forces] could not be stopped.” That’s an endorsement of airstrikes. Pretty clear.
Archbp. Silvano Tomasi, Nuncio to the United Nations in Geneva, told Vatican Radio that “military action in this moment is probably necessary.” That’s fairly clear.
At this point I track back to what I posted the other day, HERE, from a Pope who grew up in war ravaged Europe, liberated by allies who defeated an unjust regime:
8. Here I wish to express gratitude to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international humanitarian law. Nor can I fail to mention the many soldiers engaged in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the necessary conditions for peace. I wish to remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council: ”All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and, in carrying out this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace”.