ROME – On Monday, Pope Francis announced a new 3-year interdisciplinary course on peacemaking at the Pontifical Lateran University, urging bishops, religious superiors and lay leaders to enroll or to send students in a bid to overcome the violence and destruction gripping much of the global community.
In a Nov. 12 letter to Cardinal Angelo Amato, vicar of Rome and Grand Chancellor of the Lateran university, the pope said the Church, faced with rampant violence and conflict throughout the world, “feels impelled to inspire and support every initiative which assures to different countries and populations a path of peace.”
Speaking to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences the same day, Francis lamented that there seems to be “a lack of will and political determination to halt the arms race and to put an end to wars.”
In his letter on the new course, Francis said peace will be the result of an “authentic dialogue capable of extinguishing hatred, of abandoning selfishness and self-referentiality, of overcoming the desire for power and overwhelming the weak.”
Accomplishing this dialogue requires that effort must also be made at an educational level, with a focus on listening, understanding and fostering an awareness of the values and instruments at society’s disposal to fight “isolation, closure and the logic of power,” which he called “bearers of violence and destruction.”
In front of the careerism, conflicts and a desire to dominate others, the Church, he said, has the task of promoting peace, respect for human rights and an integral development of countries and people.
The course, announced at the beginning of the Lateran’s new academic year, will be in “the Sciences of Peace,” and will consist of an initial 3-year study cycle with an additional 2-year specialization course also available for both a bachelors degree and a licentiate.
Vincenzo Buonomo, the university’s rector, will directly oversee the course, which will explore the topic of peace from the theological, juridical, economic and social arenas, following the university’s interdisciplinary curriculum.
Father Bernard Ardura, President of the Pontifical Committee for Historical Sciences, told Crux Monday that the destruction and division brought during both the First and Second World Wars had a lasting impact on the European continent, and has led, at least in part, to “loss of Christian roots” that Pope Francis so often speaks of.
Present at the presentation Monday of a Nov. 14-16 international conference on “The Holy See and Catholics in the Post-war World,” Ardura told Crux that a tragic result of the war was that Europe was divided.
“On one side there was the whole Soviet bloc, and on the other the so-called ‘free’ part of Europe, the west. And divisions never bring a positive solution,” he said, noting that in the division, the continent became unbalanced, with the west increasingly giving into secularism, and the east preserving a natural cultural spirituality.
“The work of pacifying is a task which intends to restore to Europe its full identity, its culture, which is east and west together,” he said, adding that the persistent quest for peace and for the continued unification of the European continent can help the continent to rediscover “its true identity, which we call its ‘Christian roots.’”
In his letter to Amato, Francis named Saints John Paul II and John XXIII, canonized together in 2014, as patrons of the new peace-making course.
He urged diocesan bishops, episcopal conferences, religious superiors and those in charge of Catholic associations or lay movements to avail themselves and those they oversee of the new program, and he voiced hope that the entire Lateran community would feel involved “in planting the seeds of a culture of peace,” which he said is a task that begins with listening, professionalism and dedication, “always accompanied by humility, meekness and the will to do everything for everyone.”