On January 10, 2002 John Paul II evaluated the international situation
he addressed the ambassadors of the 172 countries accredited at the Vatican.
Here is a translation of an excerpt from the Holy Father's address which
touches on the situation in the Middle East and terrorism:
Likewise, however, the light which has come from the stable in Bethlehem
illuminates implacably the ambiguities and setbacks in our undertakings. As
this year begins, we are sadly aware that humanity finds itself in a
situation of violence, suffering, and sin. On Christmas night we were
present in spirit at Bethlehem and were alas forced to note that the Holy
Land, where the Redeemer was born, is still, through man's fault, a land of
fire and blood. No one can remain indifferent to the injustice of which the
Palestinian people have been victims for more than fifty years. No one can
contest the right of the Israeli people to live in security. However,
neither can anyone forget the innocent victims who, on both sides, fall day
after day under the blows of violence. Weapons and bloody attacks will never
be the right means for making a political statement to the other side. Nor
is the logic of the law of retaliation capable any longer of leading to
paths of peace.
As I have already stated on many occasions, only respect for others
their legitimate aspirations, the application of international law, the
evacuation of the occupied territories, and an internationally guaranteed
special status for the most holy places in Jerusalem can bring about a
beginning of pacification in that part of the world and break the hellish
cycle of hatred and vengeance. And I express the hope that the international
community will be enabled to fulfil, through peaceful and appropriate means,
its irreplaceable role and be accepted by all the parties in the conflict.
One against the other, neither Israelis nor Palestinians can win the war,
but together they can win peace.
The legitimate fight against terrorism, of which the abhorrent attacks
last September 11 are the most appalling expression, has once again let the
sound of arms be heard. Barbarous aggression and killings raise not only the
question of legitimate defence but also issues such as the most effective
means of eradicating terrorism, the search for the factors underlying such
acts, and the measures to be taken to bring about a process of "healing" in
order to overcome fear and to avoid evil being added to evil, violence to
violence. It is appropriate, therefore, to encourage the new government
installed in Kabul in its efforts to achieve the effective pacification of
all Afghanistan. Finally, I must mention the tensions which have once more
set India and Pakistan at odds, in order earnestly to request the political
leaders of these great nations to give absolute priority to dialogue and
We also need to heed the question which comes to us from the depths
abyss: that of the place and the use made of religion in the lives of people
and societies. Here I wish to say once again, before the whole international
community, that killing in the name of God is an act of blasphemy and a
perversion of religion. This morning I wish to repeat what I wrote in my
Message for January 1: "It is a profanation of religion to declare oneself a
terrorist in the name of God, to do violence to others in his name.
Terrorist violence is a contradiction of faith in God, the Creator of man,
who cares for man and loves him" (No. 7).