How Pope John XXIII to responded to the prospect of nuclear war

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12/10/2022
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Pope John XXIII is remembered as the pope who convened the Second Vatican Council in 1962, but in that same year he also intervened in the Cuban Missile Crisis as the world was on the brink of nuclear war. 

After praying the Angelus, Pope Francis noted the similar circumstances of the world today to those faced by the Italian pope as the threat of nuclear war grows from the war in Ukraine. 

POPE FRANCIS
Regarding the beginning of the Council 60 years ago, we should not forget the danger of nuclear war that menaced the world right at that time. Why don’t we learn from history?Even at that time, there were conflicts and great tension, but the peaceful way was chosen.

Vatican journalist Fausto Gasparroni wrote a book with Nina Fabrizio on the pope's efforts for peace. He explains that John XXIII's public appeals for peace, rare for a pope at time, and the private messages he sent to both U.S. President John F. Kennedy and Russian Premier Nikita Kruschnev played a role in bringing the crisis to an end. 

FAUSTO GASPARRONI
Co-author, “The Popes of Peace”
This message breached Kruschnev's line of sight, who, we can say influenced also by the pope's appeal, decided to turn around the ships carrying these missile implants and the crisis then ended at that moment.

John XXIII's actions set the precedent for popes to intervene in preventing nuclear conflict, one which Pope Francis continues to develop today. 

FAUSTO GASPARRONI
Co-author, “The Popes of Peace”
Pope Francis strongly feels his legacy, in particular on this topic, on which John XXIII wrote his historic encyclical “Pacem in terris” where in one passage which remains famous and provoked much conversation, he practically put the concept of just war on the shelf when it comes nuclear.

Pope Francis has taken the Church's hard line against nuclear weapons to even greater lengths, stating that their mere possession is immoral. In the context of the war in Ukraine, he's also prompted questions on the Church's teaching on just war theory.

FAUSTO GASPARRONI
Co-author, “The Popes of Peace”
The current pope also said that the concept of just war must be revisited, and in his latest statements he has grants the possibility of a country to defend itself when it is attacked or invaded. Of course, always in the context of limited use of conventional arms that don't go beyond use for defense.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has threatened to use nuclear weapons if other nations intervene in the war in Ukraine, prompting Pope Francis to be one more pope in history caught in the midst of nuclear tensions.

JM

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