Page 7, 28th January 1983

28th January 1983
Page 7
Page 7, 28th January 1983 — An open letter to Pope John Paul
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An open letter to Pope John Paul

from Monsignor Bruce Kent

Dear Holy Father, You gave us a message of dialogue for Peace Sunday 1983, a dialogue essential if we are to try to make peace. It was a great message. It spoke of the futility of war, of the common interest that we all, of whatever country, have in peace, of the need to understand the fears of 'the other', of the dangers of exaggerated nationalism and of the dialogue for justice which must go hand in hand with the dialogue for peace.

Since you called for dialogue I do think you will welcome someone who responds in that spirit. Let me tell you then, with love and respect, that your message did not come to us through our national media. It was printed, in part, in the Catholic and other Christian Press — extracts were used by parishes. Pax Christi did its best to make it known.

But 1 am sure that it is now filed away in ecumenical libraries. The great bulk of our population will never hear it. Far too soon it will simply become another archive.

Dialogue and its demands were not the message that our national journals wanted to hear. They were looking for something else and they found it. "Pope condemns unilateral disarmament" were the headlines your speech made, the words our radios reported. Vet 1 looked through your text when it came and searched in vain for a reference to unilateral disarmament. Not a word on that theme. How could such a misrepresentation happen?

The explanation came in a small part of a sermon which you had given to launch the Day of Peace. In it was the very sensible sentence "it is difficult to imagine how the problem of peace in the world can be resolved unilaterally without the participation and concrete efforts of all the parties".

The propagandists reached out enthusiastically for that reference to unilateral and applied it then to your following sentence: "The powers which confront each other ought to be able to proceed together on the various stages of disarmament and to occupy themselves at each point in equal measure".

Thal was quite enough. You are now a favourite with those who oppose the peace movement. Twice in a few days you have been quoted as a supporter by those in Govern ment in my country urging yet more nuclear weapons, in particular cruise missiles and Trident submarines, in the pursuit of the myth called military balance.

Holy Father we need another message. Tell the diplomats of the world that so vast is the present level of nuclear overkill that balance is a meaningless terms and "equal measure" a phrase which hinders progress and does not stimulate it. Tell them that the arms race which has spiralled over the years in a series of unilateral steps-can also take the same road downwards toward sanity.

Tell them that in 1978 the united Nations three times commended, as part of the same disarmament process, both unilateral initiatives and multilateral negotiations. Tell them that additional weapons can only add to everyone's insecurity and that, as a minimum, we should now demand from all the nuclear powers, a total freeze on all research, production and deployment of new weapons. HO Father, sou are as well aware as I am that there are those of great influence and power who would willingly use you to give a baptism of respectability to their processes and perspectives. Do not let them. Millions in Europe and in the world now want to be free from bloc domination East and West.

They want to hear judgments which apply the same yardstick to unhappy Turkey for instance as to unhappy Poland, to Salvador as to Afghanistan. They want to hear from you a call for action as much addressed to Churches as to Governments.

They want a demand for unilateral disarmament by one side and not the other. But everywhere the cry is for unilateral steps ("audacious gestures" was your phrase in 1979) which give impetus and meaning to multilateral

the peace movements are calling positively for a nonnuclear defence policy.

We need your help Holy Father. Speak please, as you did at Coventry In the middle of that tragic, foolish, Falklands war which, as you forecast, has solved nothing. Speak so clearly that your words can be abused by no one and can be welcomed without hesitation by all those working, as you are, for the peace of all (;od's family.

We need you with us, not quoted against us. Perhaps it is also with us that there is a need for dialogue.

With great respect,

Bruce Kent




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