Pope john Paul II United Nations address contains two very brief final paragraphs. They are condensed, possibly brief because they stand as the threshold of a future which is yet to be written. The Pope acknowledged that humanity approaches tomorrow with a degree of fear. That fear is no mirage. Nor is its existence hypothetical. The fear is actual. But by the Pope’s insistence that “we must overcome our fear of the future”, he implied that a prolongation of this same fear is not inevitable. It is a fear which we are able to overcome. Collectively, humanity contains an “answer” which is a definitive antidote to that fear. Putting aside coercion, repression, and such like, the answer consists of a “common effort to build the civilization of love”. Lest critics scoff that love is tenuous and intangible, the Pope stated that the enterprise is constructed upon an array of universally accepted value: “peace, solidarity, justice and liberty”. These are known. These are prized. And these engage us as our international interactions unfold with constancy and “soul”. That “soul” is “lived in self-giving solidarity and responsibility”. It invites us “not be afraid of the future” and “not be afraid of man”. Indeed, humanity is cleansed of that fear when recalling this century’s “tears:. Those tears have not been shed in vain. For they “have prepared the ground for a new spring-time of the human spirit”.
Despite what seems to be ample justification for pessimism and cynicism when we survey the contemporary global scene, diplomats must decline to concur. Service to their representative countries and to the international community means that they are equipped to counter-balance the negative swirl. Their own diligence and dedication, their own perseverance and determination, prove that humanity can and will be salvaged. In Christian parlance, man is not merely salvageable; man is redeemable and even perfectible. The very prospect of human solidarity is fecund, it parents a mature and solid optimism, before which fear and its progeny can be seen to dissipate.
The phrase “fear of a future”, strongly reminiscent of no. 18 of the Pope’s 1995 United Nations text, is stated in his New Year address of 2002. Such fear is linked to diverse international dilemmas. Among them is reference to terrorism and to “the abhorrent attacks of last 11 September”. The Pope described terrorist acts as “barbarous aggression”. But he also spoke about the importance of the need to search for the “most effective means of eradicating terrorism”. This is not a statement which presupposes terrorism’s ultimate triumph. Rather, what is presumed is that “means” do exist for the eradication of terrorism, that “effective” means are identifiable among lesser contenders and that terrorism definitely can be eradicated. Additionally, the community of nations faces questions to which we are able to respond. These are questions about “legitimate defense”, about the causation behind terrorist antics, and about measures to promote that kind of “healing” which “overcomes fear” and decreases violence. Diplomats might note that terrorism, however extensive and excessive, is anything but absolute. Diplomacy should proceed as the accompaniment to an ascending hope.
This content comes from: B.J. O’Connor, Papal Diplomacy: John Paul II and Culture of Peace, South Bend, Indiana 2005.