Today, “we reaffirm our conviction that fraternity is more durable than fratricide, that hope is more powerful than hatred, that peace is more powerful than war”. On 5 March 2021, Pope Francis began his Apostolic Journey in Iraq, a journey that many had warned against due to security reasons, while others feared the risk of “failure”, taking into consideration the inner divisions in Iraqi society and the fact that dialogue among the various religions in the country has not always easy. That visit which the Pope earnestly wanted to make, despite the concern over the vigil, which was a success. Moreover, it was a journey-message which underscored that peace is possible, co-existence necessary and that, as the Pope said in a Mosul devastated by Isis, despite everything, fraternity is stronger than fratricide. The words he used one year ago in one of the most tormented areas of the world, sound prophetic today, like a warning. Meanwhile, a destructive war sparked by the Russian army’s invasion of Ukraine, is being fought in the heart of Europe.
The suffering is disastrous, the debt of human lives lost to this war is unbearable. The very order of things is shocked because, as Herodotus said bitterly, “in peace sons bury their fathers, but in war fathers bury their sons”.
Never like today, with the exception perhaps of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, does humanity fear a military escalation that could dangerously spill over into a new global conflict. A madness that is foreign to reason and yet now dreaded as possible. However, already many years ago, mostly unheard, the Pope had warned against a Third World War, fought “piecemeal”: From Syria to Yemen, from Afghanistan to Iraq, a list which tragically Ukraine now also joins.
In these almost nine years of Pontificate, Pope Francis has tirelessly raised his voice in favour of peoples oppressed by the scourge of war, especially the ones that are forgotten because they are being fought far from the seat of power, or due to lack of media interest. How many times has Pope Francis launched appeals for the children in Yemen, innocent victims of a brutal war. How many times has he recalled the tragedy in Syria and how many initiatives has he implemented — of prayer, humanitarian and diplomatic — for those people, who for over 10 years, have not known peace.
“Those who wage war... forget humanity”, Pope Francis said at the Angelus on 27 February. Those who wage war “do not look at the real life of people”, but “ trust in the diabolical and perverse logic of weapons, which is the furthest from the will of God”. It is the furthest from the logic of fraternity, as well, which patiently accepts others as they are, as children of God.
In September 2014, while visiting the Military Memorial of Redipuglia on the centenary of the First World War, the Pope had condemned the absurdity of war, highlighting that “war is madness” because “its only plan is to bring destruction”. Throughout these days, images of this very destruction that spares no one are arriving from Ukraine. And the question that becomes increasingly more distressing, day after day is: for how much longer?