Joshua J. McElwee | Apr. 14, 2016
The participants of a first-of-its-kind Vatican conference have bluntly rejected the Catholic church's long-held teachings on just war theory, saying they have too often been used to justify violent conflicts and the global church must reconsider Jesus' teachings on nonviolence.
Members of a three-day event co-hosted by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the international Catholic peace organization Pax Christi have also strongly called on Pope Francis to consider writing an encyclical letter, or some other "major teaching document," reorienting the church's teachings on violence.
"There is no 'just war,'" the some 80 participants of the conference state in an appeal they released Thursday morning.
"Too often the 'just war theory' has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war," they continue. "Suggesting that a 'just war' is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict."
"We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence," say the participants, noting that Francis and his four predecessors have all spoken out against war often. "We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence."
The group's final appeal states succinctly: "The time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence."
"In all of this, Jesus is our inspiration and model," they state. "Neither passive nor weak, Jesus' nonviolence was the power of love in action."
Odama said Jesus "always asked his followers not to resort to violence in solving problems, including in his last stage of life."
"On the cross, [Jesus] said, 'Father forgive them because they don't know what they're doing,'" said the archbishop. "In this statement, he united the whole of humanity under one father."
"He does not take violent words and violent actions," said Odama. "That is the greatest act of teaching as to how we should handle our situations. Not violence."
Dennis said that part of the goal in organizing the conference "was to ultimately lead to an encyclical or a process that would produce major Catholic teaching on nonviolence."
"We haven't run into a roadblock yet," she said. "There are no promises."
"What we really hope will happen is a process that will engage the Vatican and the Catholic communities around the world in exactly these questions," said Dennis. "What can we know better about the role that nonviolence can play in shifting our world to a better place?"