Posted by Paweł A. Makowski

Several times in his 1995 speech, Pope John Paul II reminded delegates of their relationship to law. For example, this is implicit when he spoke the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights as well as the absence of the “rights of nations” theme in its passages. The Pope requested that representatives consider the question of justice which that lacuna raises. Justice is regularly associated with and manifested in the realm of law. Law is counted with ethics and anthropology as a vehicle for the “serious interpretation, and … closer examination” of such problematic as when ethnic and cultural consciousness becomes a “counterweight” to trends toward global uniformity. The Pope insisted that the goal of “equality of all peoples” is qualified. That equality is predicated by the adjective “legal”; a legal equality which presumes international recognition that the world is composed of a “family of nations”.

International law

In his 1996 diplomatic message, the Pope directly commented upon a principle of international law, the concept of reciprocity. Reciprocity is contrary to “despotic nationalistic ideologies”. Its authentic meaning is that people willingly accept the identity of their “neighbor”. “Each nation must be prepared to share its human spiritual and material resources in order to help whose needs are greater than the needs of its own members”.

Sadly, some nations not only refuse to encourage an attitude of “welcome”; they actively discriminate. For example, they behave punitively toward those who practice a religious faith. The pontiff deemed this to be “an intolerable and unjustifiable violation… of all the norms of current international law”. Diplomats must strive to uphold what law requires.

Rule of law

Is valid for the community of nations without exception. And, as a juridic system, the common good is always both its foundation and ultimate end. The Pope’s 1997 message to diplomats strongly emphasized that “international law itself is founded on values”. Moral principles, for example, human dignity or “guaranteeing the rights of nations”, are antecedent to the express juridic norms which comprise the rule of law. This explains why the intellectual precursors of ius gentium may be traced to philosophers and theologians, particularly between the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. They understood that the function of law rests upon a moral imperative, granting to each person what justice decrees as owed to them. The Pope also noted that the thrust of contemporary international law is less in the direction of “a mere law between States”, and more in the direction of human rights. Examples include “the international right of health care or the right to humanitarian aid”. Moreover, he applauded “attempts to form an international criminal justice system”. This step is said to be evidence of “real progress in the moral conscience of the nations”. By extension,  diplomats should be mindful of that conscience in their official deliberations and activities. Part of this task is to attest that fundamental morality because it is an articulations of what is “right and good” – has “a preparatory role in the making of international law” itself. When this role is secured, the Pope stated in 1999, human rights will be recognized as the connective between “all juridic norms”. International law may therefore escape disintegration into a law of fluctuating consensus or of “the law of the stronger”. Again, in 2000, Pope john Paul II appealed for diplomats to so influence political will that international relations can become “increasingly imbued with and shaped by the rule of law”. Because sovereign states are de facto unequal, existing legal instruments need to be rigorously applied in the interests of “stability… and cooperation between peoples”.

Diplomacy according to the Pope’s

Remarks on January 13, 2001, has an actual “capacity to bring about the rule of order and equality”. Recourse to law is an element of that capacity. The jurdic “instruments of diplomacy” are also an element, an example being the peace agreement signed (December 2000) in Algiers between Ethiopia and Eritrea. But, it is apparent, the Pope stated, that the principles of international legality are jeopardized and must be revived. They are weakened, for example, wherever territory is acquired by force, where the self-determination of peoples is violated and where contempt is leveled against United Nations resolutions or the Geneva conventions.

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”.