By Andrea Tornielli
In recent days, the United Nations Security Council has approved a resolution calling for “an immediate cessation of hostilities in all situations for at least 90 consecutive days”, in order to guarantee humanitarian assistance for the affected populations, and to counter the devastating consequences of the spread of Covid-19.
Pope Francis, with his intervention at the conclusion of the Angelus on Sunday, desired to lend his support to the initiative, hoping that the global ceasefire would be observed “effectively and promptly”. The Pope's initiative represents a new step on a long road — a step made even more urgent by the crisis caused by the pandemic, whose most devastating consequences, on a par with those of wars, fall on the poorest.
On Sunday, 29 March, the Pope had already made this request, supporting the appeal made five days earlier by the Secretary-General of the United Nations. António Guterres had called for a “global and immediate ceasefire in all corners of the world”, recalling the Covid-19 emergency, which knows no borders. Pope Francis had associated himself “with those who have welcomed this appeal” and had invited “everyone to follow it by ceasing all forms of hostility, promoting the creation of humanitarian aid routes, openness to diplomacy, and attentiveness to those who are in situations of great vulnerability.”
The Pope had expressed his hope that the joint commitment against the pandemic, “might bring everyone to recognize the great need to reinforce brotherly and sisterly bonds as members of a single human family." In particular, he said, “May it inspire a renewed commitment to overcome rivalries among the leaders of nations and the parties involved. Conflicts cannot be resolved through war! Antagonism and differences must be overcome through dialogue and a constructive search for peace.”
Pope Francis, in the following weeks, had returned twice more to lament the costs of conflict. In the homily for the Easter Vigil, celebrated in St. Peter's, he said: “Let us silence the cries of death, no more wars! May we stop the production and trade of weapons, since we need bread, not guns”. Pope Francis desired to recall once again this theme, which has been a constant theme of his pontificate, in the longer of the two Marian prayers suggested to the faithful to be prayed at the conclusion of the Rosary in the month of May: “Support national leaders, that with wisdom, solicitude and generosity they may come to the aid of those lacking the basic necessities of life and may devise social and economic solutions inspired by farsightedness and solidarity. Mary Most Holy, stir our consciences, so that the enormous funds invested in developing and stockpiling arms will instead be spent on promoting effective research on how to prevent similar tragedies from occurring in the future.”
Several times and on different occasions, in previous years, Pope Francis had denounced “the hypocrisy” and “sin” of the leaders of those countries that “speak of peace and sell weapons to make these wars” — words he also repeated on his return from the last international journey before the outbreak of the pandemic, the one to Thailand and Japan: “In Nagasaki and Hiroshima I paused in prayer; I met some survivors and relatives of victims, and I renewed my firm condemnation of nuclear weapons and the hypocrisy of talking about peace while building and selling weaponry.”
According to an Oxfam report, in 2019 global military spending reached two trillion dollars, and currently there are two billion human beings trapped in countries at war, exhausted by violence, persecution, famine — and now, the pandemic emergency.