The Independent Newsweekly
Posted: January 15, 2004
Interview with Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo
January 14, 2004
By John L. Allen, Jr.
Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican's foreign minister -- the formal title is Secretary for Relations with States - gave National Catholic Reporter an exclusive interview Jan. 14. It was his first major interview with an American newspaper since his appointment Oct. 8.
Following is the text of that interview.
NCR: The pope has called for a new international order, based on the experiences of the United Nations. What would be the most important elements of this order? How would it differ from existing structures or institutions?
The experience of the United Nations, to which the pope makes reference expressing his hope for a greater degree of international ordering, is, first of all, a positive one. If one reads closely No. 7 of the Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, one will note two major points. First: the pope does not hesitate to speak of "the limitations and delays due in great part to the failures of its members." Here one can think of the international community's lack of response to the massacres in some regions of Africa. The search to find the adequate means to avoid such limitations and delays can no longer be put off. Secondly, the pope believes that the United Nations should become "a moral center where all the nations of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a family of nations." It is clear here that the military and economic superiority of one country, while giving rise to a particular moral responsibility vis-à-vis other nations (the principle of solidarity), does not automatically translate into an institutional pre-eminence with the subordination of other members (the principle of equality). Simultaneous attention to these two principles would surely render the U.N. structures more acceptable and efficient.
The United States government believes that the United Nations is sometimes too cumbersome to provide the rapid response necessary in the war on terrorism. Is there a way to create an international order that is both multilateral and efficient?
Certainly there is the need for prompt intervention, indeed prevention of acts of terrorism. Here also we see how justified is the pope's call for an internationally recognized authority, on the world level, supported and controlled by the member states of the U.N., and endowed with juridical competence and adequate means to act in a timely manner.
Some observers find it difficult to reconcile the Holy See's strong support for the United Nations on issues of diplomacy and peacemaking with its equally strong criticism of United Nations agencies on matters such as family planning, reproductive rights and condoms. Is there a contradiction here?
The United States has long feared giving up its sovereignty to a stronger international body such as the United Nations. Is the position of the Holy See that absolute national sovereignty in the 21st century is an anachronism?
Furthermore, every international agreement implies, at the same time, the exercise and the limitation of the sovereignty of a state: the state enters into a binding relationship. It is always and first of all a question of the degree of such limitation and then a question of remaining true to one's word. Pact sunt servanda ("agreements are to be respected") is one of the first principles of international law, and the pope has forcefully called attention to this in his recent message for the World Day of Peace.
In his message for the World Day of Peace, the Holy Father says "the fight against terrorism cannot be limited solely to repressive and punitive operations." Does the Holy See believe that more needs to be done to address the social and political roots of terrorism? If so, what specifically should be done?
In order to eradicate terrorism, which, as an international scourge with vast, indeed planetary consequences, is a new historical phenomenon, it is necessary not only to single out and eliminate the centers that arm terrorists, but also to identify and correct their cultural and spiritual centers. At this point, I must mention the necessity, among other things, to ensure that certain schoolbooks used in some countries by which the young are taught to feel contempt or even hatred for people of other religions or diverse nationalities be duly corrected.
It is equally necessary to work on social causes that frustrate entire generations of young people, and not just them, in their basic aspirations for social justice and well-being. Some deadly pseudo-religious acts of incitement, such as suicide bombings, arise from the experience of the inability to change society: one cannot see a future worth working for. Here, international policy must intervene incisively so that most especially young people, in all countries, will be aware that it is only through peace and work that they will find the concrete possibilities for building a better future for their people and their country. Here, too, the pope has indicated some specific approaches. He has called for the establishment of a just international business and finance environment, effective international economic aid and also -- with requisite guarantees -- the cancellation or substantial reduction of the foreign debt of the poorest countries together with the transfer of scientific and technological knowledge.
Terrorism is a complex phenomenon that cannot be definitively overcome except by a series of varying yet convergent measures: religious, cultural, social, political, and matters of international law.
John L. Allen, Jr. is NCR Rome Correspondent. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
National Catholic Reporter, January 15, 2004
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