By Bishop Joseph Kopacz
The Word of God in Advent overflows with a vision of justice and peace, hope and reconciliation, solidarity and community in order that time may be a foretaste of eternity. At the outset of this season of expectation and preparation last weekend on the first Sunday in Advent we proclaimed God’s dream for our world from the prophet Isaiah.
The following passage from sacred scripture was heard throughout the Catholic Church soon after Pope Francis spoke with great emotion at the memorials of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, the sites of the nuclear nightmares that marked the culmination of devastation at the end of World War II:
“This is what Isaiah, son of Amoz, saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In days to come, the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it; many peoples shall come and say: ‘Come, let us climb the LORD’s mountain, to the house of the God of Jacob, that he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.’ For from Zion shall go forth instruction, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and impose terms on many peoples. They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation shall not raise the sword against another, nor shall they train for war again. O’ house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
At the memorials where the gates of hell blew open, Pope Francis stood in solidarity with the long line of Old Testament prophets, along with the popes of the modern and post-modern era, once more to cry out for justice and peace in the human community, Saint Pope John XXIII wrote Pacem in Terris in 1963 less than two decades from the end of World War II addressing, in part, the awful waste of resources in the maddening arms race, the voracious beast of the military-industrial complex of which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned in the 1950s. On Oct. 4, 1965 Saint Pope Paul VI, the first pope to appear before the United Nations, spoke of the horrors of war and the absolute necessity of world peace. He pleaded, with deep emotion in his voice, “No more war! War never again!”
Two years later he penned Populorum Progressio, the Development of Peoples, that addressed the terrible toll that the development, deployment and use of weaponry took on the human family, draining away much need resources for development, as well as killing the human spirit. This Apostolic teaching called for the full development of each person and the whole person. (n.14)
Saint Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict directly experienced the hell of World War II in Poland and Germany and often spoke out with prophetic zeal for the dignity of the human person, justice and peace. On the 50th Anniversary of Populorum Progressio in 2017 Pope Francis established the Dicastery for Integral Human Development, applying his passion to the vision of Isaiah cited above. Pope Francis loves the concept of integration and sees its urgent need in every dimension of life. Development cannot be restricted to material growth; it means integrating body and soul which finds its source in the Incarnation, the God-Man, Jesus Christ. Integral development gives glory to God and is in relationship with others. From the personal to the global our call is to integrate the peoples of the earth in a sustainable harmony. Solidarity and subsidiarity are at the heart of the social integration of the economy, finance, labor, culture, family life and religion in service of the web of life.
Pope Francis eloquently asserted that “human life is like an orchestra that sounds good if the different instruments are in accord and follow a score shared by all: person means relationship not individualism; it affirms inclusion, not exclusion, uniqueness with an inviolable dignity, rather than exploitation; freedom not coercion. Integral human development is the road of good that the human family is called to travel.”
In late November 2017 in Rome at an international symposium called: “Prospects for a World Free from Nuclear Weapons and for Integral Development” he reminded the participants that the integral disarmament called for by Saint Pope John XXIII in Pacem in Terris is yet to be accomplished. Bleak pessimism must give way to healthy realism Pope Francis stated, and cited the recent declaration of the United Nations in 2015 condemning nuclear weapons as an illegal means of warfare, joining the ranks of outlawed biological and chemical weapons. The catastrophic humanitarian and environmental effects would be unthinkable. The Holy Father pressed the point that the unrelenting arms race, nuclear and so called conventional, “divert resources away from the fight against poverty, the undertaking of educational, ecological and healthcare projects and the development of human rights. … International relations cannot be held captive to military force, mutual intimidation, and the parading of stockpiles of arms. … Progress that is both effective and inclusive can achieve the utopia of a world free of deadly instruments of aggression, contrary to the criticism of those who consider idealistic any process of dismantling arsenals.”
On the flight back from Japan, as for nuclear weapons, the pope reminded reporters after visiting Nagasaki and Hiroshima, “I said again that the use of nuclear weapons is immoral; this must go in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. And not only the use, but the possession.” The United States is the lone superpower at this point in humanity’s evolution and we have the potential to be a beacon of greater justice and peace who can lead the nations of the world on the path of integral disarmament toward integral human development, or in the longing of Isaiah, “come, let us walk in the light of the Lord!”
By Bishop Joseph Kopacz