Editorial-Dec. 22, 2005

Become ‘brothers once more’

By: Mae Rhine
   Aug. 1, 1917, Pope Benedict XV urged the world "to become brothers once more" and end the "terrible war unleashed upon Europe."
   Those words, spoken nearly 90 years ago, still apply.
   We are preparing to celebrate another Christmas without many of our men and women who are fighting in Iraq to preserve not only our freedom, but the hard-won liberty of the Iraqi people. We pray for their safety while acknowledging the validity of their mission.
   During World War I, Pope Benedict asked "the heads of the belligerent peoples" to heed his words. He professed to maintain complete impartiality in relation to those at war and to continue "to do all the most possible good without personal exceptions and without national or religious distinctions."
   He also vowed, "Our peacemaking mission equally demands to leave nothing undone within our power, which could assist in hastening the end of this calamity, by trying to lead the peoples and their heads to more moderate frames of mind and to the calm deliberations of peace, of a ‘just and lasting’ peace."
   Beautiful words that largely were ignored by most of the world. Perhaps it would not be a bad idea to listen to them again.
   President Bush has declared our mission in Iraq is necessary, but will take time to complete. We agree. While no major stores of weapons of mass destruction were found, the cruelty and evil of Saddam Hussein and his followers would have continued to be a long-term threat.
   But there will come a time for us to withdraw and allow the Iraqi people to rebuild their country in the way they decide is best for them, offering sage advice if asked.
   Pope Bendict urged the world, "The material force of arms should be substituted for the moral force of law, hence, a just agreement by all for the simultaneous and reciprocal reduction of armaments, according to rules and guarantees to be established to the degree necessary and sufficient for the maintenance of public order in each state."
   He also called for, instead of armies, "the institution of arbitration with its lofty peacemaking function, according to the standards to be agreed upon and with sanctions to be decided against the state, which might refuse to submit international questions to arbitration or to accept its decisions."
   Then, once those laws were established, he called for "every obstacle to the ways of communication between the peoples be removed by ensuring through rules to be fixed in similar fashion, the true freedom and common use of the seas."
   He felt, "This would, on the one hand, remove many reasons for conflict and, on the other, would open new sources of prosperity and progress to all."
   They were lofty ideals, but, perhaps, not realistic. Some of these things are in place, on paper and in spirit, but depend entirely on total cooperation, which is not forthcoming from all nations.
   We think there will always be wars. We are human; well-meaning, but with many flaws.
   But we should remember Pope Benedict’s words and take them to heart. War may sometimes be "necessary," but during times of peace, we should not forget what many have fought and died for and continue to work toward a better world where everyone truly could become "brothers once more."