Vatican Conference Rejects 'Just War' Theory

Cardinal Turkson (at podium) offering message from Holy Father
Cardinal Turkson (at podium) offering message from Holy Father

Last week saw the completion of the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference, co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International with the help of the Justice and Peace Commission of the UISG/USG, CMSM, LCWR, Maryknoll, and the Colombans. One purpose of the conference was to reexamine the Catholic Church’s long-held teachings on the just war theory.

At the opening session, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Peter Cardinal Turkson, delivered a message from the Holy Father which called "on all people of good will to recognize what Christians profess as a consequence of faith: that it is only by considering our peers as brothers and sisters that humanity can overcome wars and conflicts".

Over the course of two days Catholic peace practitioners, members of various NGOs, women and men religious and academics from around the world listened intently to the lived experience of those responding non-violently to war and conflict. They reflected on the Gospel call to follow Jesus' way of unconditional love, nonviolence, and peace. In dialogue, participants challenged the centrality of the just war tradition and affirmed pro-active, nonviolent approaches to peace-making at all levels. In the end, the conference recommended displacing the centuries-old just war theory as the main Catholic response to violence.

The result of the conference produced a singular document: An Appeal to the Catholic Church to Recommit to the Centrality of Gospel Nonviolence. It is a commitment to further Catholic understanding and practice of active nonviolence on the road to just peace, calling on the Church to:

  • continue developing Catholic social teaching on nonviolence, including an appeal to Pope Francis to share an encyclical on nonviolence and Just Peace;
  • integrate Gospel nonviolence explicitly into the life and work of the Church;
  • promote nonviolent practices and strategies;
  • initiate a global conversation on nonviolence within the Church, with people of other faiths and with the larger world;
  • no longer use or teach "just war theory"
  • lift up the prophetic voice of the church to challenge unjust powers and to defend those nonviolent activists whose work for peace and justice put their lives at risk.

You can read the document in its entirety by clicking the attachment below. Additionaly, the National Catholic Reporter posted an article about the conference.