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Monday, October 26, 2015

To military chaplains: offer a consoling and fraternal presence to returning servicemen

Vatican City, 26 October 2015 (VIS) - “You have come from different countries to reflect together on some of the current challenges of international humanitarian law, relating to the protection of human dignity during non-international armed conflicts and the so-called 'new' armed conflicts. This is, unfortunately, a theme of great current relevance, especially if we think of the intensification of violence and the multiplication of theatres of war in various areas around the world, such as Africa, Europe and the Middle East”, said the Pope today as he received in audience the participants in the fourth training course in international humanitarian law for military chaplains, organised by the Congregation for Bishops, the Pontifical Council “Justice and Peace” and the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

Francis highlighted that war ruptures relationships between brothers and nations. “It also disfigures those who are witnesses to such atrocities. Many soldiers return after military action or from peacemaking missions with very real inner wounds. War can leave an indelible mark on them. Indeed, war always leaves an indelible mark”.

“It is therefore necessary to ask what the best ways are to cure the spiritual wounds of servicemen who, having experienced war, have witnessed atrocious crimes. These people and their families require a specific form of pastoral attention, a care that enables them to feel the maternal closeness of the Church. The role of the military chaplain is that of accompanying them and supporting them on their journey, always offering a consoling and fraternal presence”.

“International humanitarian law seeks to safeguard the essential principles of humanity in the context of war, which is in itself dehumanising. It aims to protect those who do not participate in the conflict, such as the civil population or healthcare and religious workers, and those who no longer participate actively, such as the wounded and prisoners. … In order to fulfil its aim of humanising the effects of armed conflict, humanitarian law deserves to be better known and promoted among all soldiers and armed forces, including non-state forces, such as security personnel and police. In addition, it needs to be developed further so as to face the new realities of war which today, unfortunately, involve the use of increasingly deadly weapons”.

“However, as Christians we remain profoundly convinced that the final aim, worthy of humanity and of the human community, is the abolition of war. Therefore, we must always make efforts to build bridges that unite rather than walls that separate; we must always help to look for a glimmer of hope for mediation and reconciliation. … In this period, in which we are living a piecemeal third world war, you are called upon to nurture in soldiers and their families the spiritual and ethical dimension so that it may help them face the difficulties and often devastating questions inherent in the special service they carry out for their homeland and for humanity”.

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