Peace Plan Must Be Worthy and Just



Broadcast from Vatican City September 1, 1943

Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. IX, pp. 716-717.

THIS is the fourth anniversary of that horrible day on which was launched the most formidable, destructive and devastating war of all times, a war which appalls everyone who has a heart and human feelings. Foreboding this universal disaster, which then menaced the great human family when but a few days separated us from the outbreak of hostilities, on August 24, 1939, We addressed to the rulers and peoples a fervent appeal and a suppliant warning: Nothing, We said, is lost by peace. All can be lost by war. Our voice was heard; but it failed to enlighten the intellect or penetrate to the heart. The spirit of violence triumphed over the spirit of concord and agreement—but that triumph was a defeat.

Today, on the threshold of the fifth year of war, even those who then counted on speedy military achievements and on the rapid conclusion of a triumphant peace, as they cast their glance on the scene within and without their own country, feel only sorrow and contemplate only ruins. To many who remained deaf to Our appeal, sad experience and the spectacle that meets their eyes today show how closely Our warning and Our forecast corresponded with the reality that was to be.

Our words on that occasion were inspired by impartial love for all peoples without exception, and by a vigilant anxiety for their welfare. The same love and the same anxiety move Us in this grave and troubled hour, and bring to Our lips a message which is meant to be of benefit to all and hurtful to none, as We earnestly implore Almighty God to open a way for it to the hearts and the counsels of those men whose hands hold the destinies of afflicted humanity.

Issues of War Nearing Climax

Through colossal struggles, the external issues of the war are approaching and converging on their climax. Never was the Scripture exhortation, "Receive instruction, you that judge the earth" (Psalm, 2, 10), more invoked or more urgent than in this hour, when the tragic reality of things speaks to all.

Everywhere men are entering into themselves to meditate, their eyes fixed on the ruins. It is true wisdom to encourage and sustain them in their trials. To discourage them would be fatal blindness.

In every land, men's minds are being alienated from the cult of violence, as they see in the horrid harvest of death and destruction its deserved condemnation. In all nations there grows an aversion to the brutality of the methods of total war, which tend to pass beyond every just limit and every norm of divine and human law.

More tormenting than ever, there comes to soften the minds and hearts of men a doubt whether the continuation of hostilities—and of such hostilities—is and can be said to be still in conformity with national interests, or reasonable and justifiable in the light of the Christian and human conscience.

After so many violated treaties, after so many outraged agreements, after so many broken promises, after so many contradictory shifts of purpose and action, confidence between the nations has fallen so low as to weaken and discourage every generous resolve.

Plea to Seekers After Peace

Therefore, we turn to those whose concern it is to encourage meetings and arrangements for peace, and, with an appeal that comes from the depths of Our sorrow-stricken heart, We say to them:

Real strength need not fear being generous. It always has the means to secure itself against any misinterpretation of its readiness and will to make peace, as well as against other possible repercussions. Do not shatter or smother the people's yearning for peace by acts which, instead of promoting confidence, rather give new life to the fire of hate and stiffen the will to resist. Give all nations the well-founded hope of a worthy peace, which shall not offend either their right to live or their sense of honor. Make clear beyond all possible doubt that your conclusions agree honestly with your principles, that your acts respond wholly to your declarations for a just peace.

Only thus will it be possible to create a serene atmosphere in which the peoples less favored, at a given moment, by the fortunes of war can believe in the rebirth and growth of a new sense of justice and comity among the nations, and can draw from this trust the natural consequence of a greater confidence in the future, without having to fear lest they compromise the survival, the integrity or the honor of their country.

Blessed are they who, with disinterested resolution, help to prepare the soil in which may sprout and flower, grow and ripen the sense of international veracity and justice.

Asks End of Deadlock

Blessed are they—to whichever belligerent group they belong—who, with no less impartiality and with their gaze fixed on reality, collaborate to overcome the deadlock in which today the fatal balance of war and peace is halted.

Blessed are they who keep themselves and their peoples free from the restriction of preconceived ideas, from the influence of unconquered passion, from inordinate selfishness, from unlawful thirst for power.

Blessed are they who hearken to the suppliant appeals of the mothers who gave life to their children that they might grow up in the faith and in generous endeavors, not that they should kill and be killed.

Blessed are those who listen to the anguish-laden pleadings of families stricken to death by forced separations to the ever more insistent cries of the common people who, after so much suffering, privation and mourning, ask for nothing more for their life than peace, food and work.

Blessed, finally, are they who understand that the great task of a new and true order among nations is not possible without raising our eyes to God and keeping our gaze fixed on Him Who, as the ruler and guide of all human events, is the supreme source, guardian and judge of all justice and all right.

Cites Responsibilities of Leaders

But woe to those who, in this tremendous moment, do not rise to the full consciousness of their responsibility for the fate of peoples, who feed the fires of hatred and conflict among nations, who build their power upon injustice, who oppress and torture the unarmed and the innocent (Jeremias,22, 13); behold the wrath of God has come upon them to the utmost (First Thessalonians, 2, 16).

May it please our Divine Redeemer, from whose lips went forth the cry: "Blessed are the peacemakers," to enlighten those in power and the leaders of peoples; may be direct their thoughts, their sentiments and their deliberations; may He give them in body and soul the vigor and strength to overcome the obstacles, the lack of trust and the dangers which lie strewn on the path of those who would prepare or achieve a just and lasting peace.

May their wisdom, their moderation, their determination and their lively sense of benevolence succeed in diffusing aray of comfort on the blood-stained and tear-stained threshold that leads us into the fifth year of war, and give to the surviving victims of the cruel conflict, as they bend beneath their overpowering burden of sorrow, the happy hope that this year may not pass stamped and blacked by slaughter and destruction, but may mark the opening and dawn of a new era of brotherly reconciliation, and peaceful industrious reconstruction.

In this trust, we impart to all our beloved sons and daughters of the Catholic world, and to all those who feel themselves united to us in love and work for peace, our paternal Apostolic Benediction.