Posted by Paweł A. Makowski

The United Nations Charter, the Pope said, is testament to the organization’s commitment to defend every nation and culture from injust and violent aggression. Certainly, World War II yielded staggering violations of the rights of nations, often stemming from: lethal doctrines which argued the inferiority of some nations and cultures. By contrast, history is replete with examples of attempts to resolve the dilemma of the full recognition of the rights of peoples and nations. The Pope recalled three major instances when that debate thoroughly sided with the rights and just aspirations of peoples. He referred to the fifteenth century’s Council of Constance („right of certain European peoples to existence and independence”), the same era’s University of Salamanca („peoples of the New World”), and Pope Benedict XV’s 1915 plea to World War I antagonists („nations do not die”).

Rights of nations

Pope John Paul noted that, despite increased mobility among population, and despite the flourish of mass-media and globalized economies – all trends toward universality – there is counterbalance in the evidence of an explosive need for identify and survival. The particular and the universal are not disposed to the annihilation of each other. Instead, basic anthropological consideration reinforce that the rights of nations are… human rights fostered at the specific level of community life. Also, it is vital to realize that the concept of „nation” cannot be identified a priori and necessarily with the State. Consequently, there is a right for nations to exist which is not identical with sovereignty as a state. No state or nation can deem another individual nation to be unworthy of existence. And, due to a people’s free exercise of their self-determination, that people, that nation, is entitled to its own language and culture. These suggest a spiritual sovereignty. It is that variety of sovereignty which justifies a claims of a right to shape its life according to its own legitimate traditions, and of right to build its future through the education of younger generations. Such traits reflect the particularity of the rights of nations. But there are abiding requirements of universality as well. Foremost among them is to strive to live in a spirit of peace,  respect and solidarity with other nations.

The example of East Timor

Was mentioned by the Pope in his 1996 New Year address. This population was said to be still waiting for proposals capable of allowing the realizations of their legitimate aspirations to see their spiritual, cultural and religious identity recognized. It is significant that Pope John Paul acknowledged before the assembled diplomats that East Timor awaits a process by which the international community will respond to formal proposals, a process which implies a willingness to collaborate with that community, and a process which seeks de facto and de iure recognition as a state. The Pope asserted that East Timor’s aspirations of validity as a state are legitimate. That population, then, acts in accord with the rights of nations rationale. It should be noted that in 1999 the United Nations presided over elections in East Timor, whereby the residents voted for independence. The Indonesian occupation of this former Portuguese colony was concluding. After a transitional administration of East Timor by the United Nations, statehood became a reality in 2002.

Family of nations

Also in his 1996 remarks, the Pope referenced no. 14 of his United Nations address. He repeated his insistence that not just States but Nations are entitled to have their rights both defined and ratified. Those same rights presume the importance of corresponding duties. What the Pope calls the family of nations involves far more than simple functional relations or a mere convergence of interests. There must be a genuine condition of mutual trust, mutual support and sincere respect. The family of nations image was invoked by the Pope in subsequent speeches to diplomats, notably on January 11, 1999. Here he spoke of the expanding movement toward a European community with a common destiny. The Pope believes it vital to emphasize that member countries should not be thought of as being subsumed into such an entity. Instead, each country’s sense of their own irreplaceable history must allow them to be able to reconcile their history with the same common project, and always with the aim of achieving the overall common good.

This content comes from: B.J. O’Connor, Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and Culture of Peace, South Bend, Indiana 2005.

General information about Papal Diplomacy in post: Diplomacy according to John Paul II”.