by John Hooper
January 2, 2004
Pope John Paul II launched one of the
most important diplomatic initiatives of his long papacy yesterday when he
called for a new international order to replace the one that emerged from
the second world war.
Though he did not offer a detailed plan, his words appeared to show he
wanted the UN replaced in light of its failure to block the use of force by
America in Iraq. The Pope called last month for the reform of world
institutions and deplored any failure to respect international law.
But in a sermon during a mass at St Peter's in
Rome yesterday, he went much further, referring to the UN as if it were
already a part of the past.
"More than ever, we need a new
international order that draws on the experience and results
achieved in these years by the United Nations," he declared during a
service to mark the Roman Catholic Church's World Day of Peace,
celebrated on January 1.
He was flanked at the altar by two of his most
senior international representatives: the secretary of state, Cardinal
Angelo Sodano, and the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice
and Peace, Cardinal Renato Martino, who outraged many Americans last
month by expressing "pity" and "compassion" for the captured Saddam
The congregation included the heads of all the diplomatic missions
accredited to the Holy See.
In his homily, the Pope said the
New World Order he wanted,
"would be able to provide solutions to the
problems of today ... based on the dignity of human beings, an
integrated development of society, solidarity between rich and poor
nations, and on the sharing of resources and the extraordinary results
of scientific and technological progress."
The Pope believes that not enough of these goals
are being achieved with the present system of international organizations
that emerged in the late 40s, including
the IMF and
the World Bank.
But the central issue, seen from the Vatican's point of view, is the growing
irrelevance of a painstakingly constructed body of international law which
is being ignored by the US administration during its "war
Cardinal Martino first signaled the Pope's disquiet last month when he
presented a document written by the pontiff to mark the World Day of
Without naming the US, the Pope warned:
"Peace and international law are closely
linked to each other: law favors peace". He also pointedly observed that
"democratic governments know well that the use of force against
terrorists cannot justify a renunciation of the principles of the rule
The Pope acknowledged that current international
law was ill-suited to dealing with rebels or terrorists and called for new
treaties and reform of the UN. But yesterday's appeal was for an altogether
more sweeping change.
With observer status at the UN and a network of diplomats covering 174
countries, the Holy See is in a strong position to lobby for its
goals. Its concerns over US attitudes are unlikely to be assuaged by the
latest statement of policy from President George Bush's secretary of state,
In an article for the New York Times
yesterday, Mr Powell said:
"President Bush's vision is clear and right:
America's formidable power must continue to be deployed on behalf of
principles that are simultaneously American, but that are also beyond
and greater than ourselves."
Senior members of the Catholic Church of
England and Wales endorsed the Pope's comments.
"We welcome the words of the Vatican and
fully support what the Holy See says in this," said Ollie Wilson,
a spokesman for the Catholic media office.
They cast doubt however on whether he had meant
to imply that the UN had had its day and should be replaced.
Peter Jennings, press secretary to the Most Reverend Vincent Nichols,
Archbishop of Birmingham, said:
"The Pope is a great advocate of the UN."