Pope Francis and the path to peace: A return to Helsinki Accords and dialogue
By Andrea Tornielli - Nur-Sultan
“Now is the time to stop intensifying rivalries and reinforcing opposing blocs. We need leaders who, on the international level, can enable peoples to grow in mutual understanding and dialogue, and thus give birth to a new ‘spirit of Helsinki’, the determination to strengthen multilateralism, to build a more stable and peaceful world, with an eye to future generations.”
With these words, Pope Francis offered his thoughts about the future of the world, not giving in to the tremendous and dead-end logic of military escalation that threatens to destroy humanity.
As always, he continues to point to concrete paths toward peace, paths that avoid the old logics of military alliances, economic colonization, and the overwhelming power of international powers.
From the Kazakh capital of Nur-Sultan, where in September 2001 John Paul II, amidst the tragic moment in human history, raised his cry to remove any justification for terrorism and violence that abuse the name of God, his successor Pope Francis called for a renewal of the spirit that in 1975 led to concrete steps of dialogue between East and West.
Twenty-one years ago, the appeal of Pope John Paul II - who a few months before the attacks on the Twin Towers had entered barefoot the Umayyad mosque in Damascus - was given first and foremost to religious leaders.
Today, his second successor is concerned about a “third World War,” now no longer "fought piecemeal," addressed himself primarily to the leaders of nations, particularly the most powerful.
The Helsinki Accords, which saw the Holy See fully involved for the first time in such a meeting since the Congress of Vienna, were signed by thirty-five states, including the US, USSR, and virtually all European nations.
Among the principles affirmed were respect for the rights over sovereignty, non-recourse to the use of force, peaceful settlement of disputes, inviolability of borders and territorial integrity of states, respect for human rights and human freedoms, including religious freedoms, and self-determination of peoples.
A glance at recent history, with the gradual fading of the many hopes that were kindled after the implosion of the Soviet communist system, makes one understand the stringent relevance and also the boldness of the viewpoint indicated by the Successor of Peter.
A path that can only pass through understanding, patience and dialogue with everyone.
"I repeat, with everyone," Pope Francis deliberately remarked in his address to the authorities and diplomatic corps in the Kazakh capital.
Words like "dialogue" and "negotiation," more than six months after the start of Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine and after thousands of civilian deaths under Russian bombardment, are received with irritation and considered almost blasphemous by those who are paying dearly with their own lives and that of their loved ones for the consequences of the conflict.
But the Pope's call, which spoke of the ever more pressing need to "broaden the diplomatic commitment in favor of dialogue and encounter," are addressed especially to "those in the world who hold more power" and therefore "have more responsibility towards others, especially the countries most put in crisis by conflicting logics."
It is an invitation to the world's great powers not to look only "at the interests that fall to their own advantage."
It is the invitation to get out of the logic of blocs to finally apply what Francis called "schemes of peace" and no longer the "schemes of war," children of the old logics and the madness of the rearmament race.
It is to be hoped, on everyone's part, that these words will be heard.