And the Greatest of These Is War

by Monsignor John A. Meaney

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The cry; “War, never again War” uttered by His Holiness, Pope Paul VI, on his historic visit to the United Nations in 1965 echoed around the world as a fervent prayer from the lips of all those who had seen the human suffering and devastation that results from war.

Pope Paul lived through two World Wars. During World War II he saw Italy torn apart. As a Vatican official working directly under Pope Pius XII, he saw the haunting fears in the hungry faces of the many refugees, smuggled through the Vatican, out of Nazi control, to safety, in alien lands. He heard of the “extermination” camps, and he saw the potential victims, often separated from their parents, or sons or daughters, brothers or sisters, go to safety, but always to live as “uprooted” people away from the lands of their birth.

Pope Paul also read reports describing approximate numbers of men dead, cities destroyed by saturation-bombing raids which killed and maimed unnumbered innocent lives, especially women and children. And the climax, Hiroshima! No wonder he cried out so convincingly to the powers of this world through their delegates at the United Nations: “War, never again War.” For to him war was the ultimate in human suffering. For his successor, Pope John Paul II war is “an incomparable accumulation of suffering, even to the possible self-destruction of humanity.”

Others too have seen the suffering that results from war. They have seen mangled bodies torn apart by the wanton instruments of war authorized by ambitious and ruthless men always, of course, in the name of some “good and just cause.” They have seen the limbless or paralyzed soldiers taught only to obey, caught in battle, “heroes for a day,” facing a bleak future in a rehabilitation center, wondering why and for what.

During these past nine years of madness in Lebanon, I, too, have seen blinded and maimed children and those, without physical injury, traumatized by the nights spent fearful in basements under constant shelling. I know thousands of war-orphans who will no longer experience the security of a parent’s love. I have met destitute mothers, their bread-winners dead, suffering the indignity of begging, to feed their children. And I have met those made homeless and jobless by war, many of them men, who with tears in their eyes, wonder where tomorrow’s bread for their children will come from. These are the ongoing and clearly experienced sufferings of war.

I have met young men back from their stint of fighting. Men who have been cheered for their courage but now find it difficult or impossible to find employment. Recently, a 23-year-old fighter just released from a hospital, told me that with six years of service behind him, he could not get a job. He had interrupted his education to defend his country’s freedom, and was now without any special skill. His country offered him no opportunity to continue his education or acquire a marketable skill.

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Tags: Christianity Pope John Paul II