File photo of Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia with Pope Francis File photo of Archbishop Gabriele Giordano Caccia with Pope Francis 

Interview: Holy See's UN Observer discusses effective alternatives to war

In a wide-ranging interview with Vatican Media, the Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN in New York, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, observes that ‘military solutions’ do not work and therefore other paths must be taken; and warns that dangers of nuclear arms pose concrete threats to the existence of humanity.

By Deborah Castellano Lubov

The so-called "military solution" does not work, as evidenced by thousands of lives lost, families destroyed, homes, jobs, and infrastructure ruined, and therefore makes one aware that another path must be taken….

The Holy See's Permanent Observer to the UN, Archbishop Gabriele Caccia, made this observation in a wide-ranging interview with Vatican Media.

During the conversation, the Observer discusses paths to peace, especially considering the wars in Ukraine and the Middle East, and asks whether there are tools, even within international diplomacy, that could facilitate de-escalation and that have not yet been utilized.

Furthermore, the Apostolic Nunzio sheds light on the disturbing reality of unprecedented spending on arms, noting such investments would be better spent on socio-economic development and conflict prevention programs; the need to restore trust and diplomatic structures and cooperation; and the Church’s great concern for the dangers of nuclear weapons, which represent “an existential threat to humanity as a whole.”

Having already served as Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN for five years, Archbishop Caccia also discloses what he believes is necessary for the great international organization to play a more effective role in favour of peace.


Your Excellency, in the current dramatic scenario, Pope Francis continues to issue appeals for peace. Based on your experience, how is it possible to find the paths to peace, especially in conflicts in Ukraine and the Middle East?

No one has a "magic" solution to such conflicts, which arise from a multitude of causes and from different perspectives of the protagonists who bear responsibility. However, it is increasingly important to courageously and, with conviction, repeat that only peace is the solution, and, that the paths of violence and conflict, instead generate death, perpetuate injustices, and breed hatred. One realizes that - to remain within the two cases of the conflicts mentioned - the so-called "military solution" not only does not work, but is incapable of envisioning a different future. This very realization, which unfortunately means thousands of lives lost, families destroyed, homes, jobs, and infrastructure ruined, paradoxically gives birth to the awareness that another path must be taken, and that, as numerous are the causes that lead to war, equally numerous are the reasons and people who can tread the path of peace. The Pope has emphasized that finding the paths of peace requires sincere commitment from all parties involved, open and constructive dialogue, and above all, the willingness to set aside divisions and work together for the common good, promoting reconciliation and solidarity.

In your opinion, Archbishop Caccia, are there tools that could facilitate de-escalation and have not yet been utilized, even within international diplomacy?

The entire Sixth Chapter of the United Nations Charter deals with the peaceful settlement of disputes " by negotiation, enquiry, mediation, conciliation, arbitration, judicial settlement, resort to regional agencies or arrangements," to which a whole series of humanitarian initiatives can be added, which can facilitate the achievement of such solutions. There is thus ample room for various initiatives, but fundamental remains the firm and shared willingness to use them in accordance with international law, otherwise it is difficult to implement them in practice.

War has prominently returned to the forefront in recent years. There are also wars forgotten by the media, such as in Myanmar, Sudan, Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of Congo... What concerns you most about this highly volatile global climate, where many countries, according to the recent SIPRI report, are increasingly spending on arms?

What concerns me most is the growing risk of "escalation" of conflicts and the perpetuation of human suffering. This arms race also entails huge investments that would be better spent on socio-economic development and conflict prevention programs. More fundamentally, all this reveals a dangerous illusion that security is produced by force and possession of weapons, whereas it is the result of relationships based on mutual trust and responsibility. In this sense, Pope Francis' appeal to "fraternity" or to "social friendship" certainly requires a necessary "conversion" if the goal of peace is to be achieved.

On several occasions, you have warned of the great danger of nuclear weapons possessed by various countries. What, in your view, are the risks that humanity is facing at this stage of history?

The Catholic Church, faithful to its doctrine of human dignity and the promotion of peace, expresses deep concern about the dangers of nuclear weapons. These weapons represent an existential threat to humanity as a whole, as they can cause widespread destruction, compromise the environment, and inflict unspeakable suffering on present and future generations. In this sense, there is a clear condemnation not only of the use but also of the possession of such weapons, as morally unacceptable, as they contradict the principle of proportionality in defence, risking inflicting indiscriminate and irreversible damage. However, I would like to add that according to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, in addition to the nuclear risk, there are two other realities that pose a global danger to humanity today, namely, climate change and the uncontrolled development of so-called Artificial Intelligence. On all three of these dramatic fronts, the voice of the Church is heard clearly and convincingly: regarding nuclear issues, the Holy See, in addition to endorsing the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, has also promoted the more recent one for their complete prohibition, which came into force for signatory countries in January 2021. In the field of climate change, it is enough to remember Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato si’ and the more recent Apostolic Exhortation Laudate Deum in view of the Conference of Parties in Dubai last December. Finally, on the issue of Artificial Intelligence, the Holy Father sent a Message for Peace Day on 1 January of this year specifically on this topic, and now he is preparing to participate in the G7 meeting next month in Puglia, which will especially address its ethical dimension.

Pope Francis has stated that the increasing hostile and confrontational situation that many parts of the world are experiencing is also caused by the weakening of the multilateral diplomacy structures that emerged after the Second World War. Where, in your opinion, is this weakening most evident?

There is a profound and widespread erosion of trust among parties in the context of multilateral diplomacy. Mutual trust between states would instead foster cooperation, open dialogue, and peaceful conflict resolution. Without trust, international relations can be characterized by suspicion, rivalry, and hostility, making it more difficult to reach agreements and compromises that promote the common good and lasting peace. As an example, one can note the increasing use of the veto and especially of cross vetoes in the United Nations Security Council. In just over five months, it has been used six times: in the post-Cold War era, only 2017 saw more, seven, but throughout the year.

You have already served as the Permanent Observer of the Holy See at the UN for five years. What is necessary for this great international organization to play a more effective role in favour of peace?

First of all, despite the difficulties that are rightly pointed out from various quarters, it seems to me that it must be reaffirmed with conviction that the existence of this Organization itself is a great achievement and a great opportunity. After all, it is the only tool available to the entire international community to meet, confront, and dialogue permanently and stably. Like in all institutions, continuous adjustments are necessary to keep up with the times, and in this sense, there are various processes that intend to promote a reform of the system. But above all, it seems to me that the principles of the United Nations Charter maintain all their validity; instruments and mechanisms are not lacking either. Perhaps it is necessary to rediscover the spirit that almost eighty years ago inspired the creation of this Organization in order to find the paths that today can lead to peace. It seems to me that this is the stake in the next "The Summit of the Future" that will be held here in New York next September.

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14 May 2024, 14:45