One of the greatest perks of being the Pope is being able to quote yourself without people looking askance. Earlier today, the last day of our research trip to In Flanders Fields in Ypres, @Pontifex – Pope Francis – tweeted one of the lines from his 3 June address, and, for the day that is in it, there could be no more apt a comment: “War is the mother of all poverty, a vast predator of lives and souls.” How in so few words he is able to capture the complexity of the frustration and rage that we are thinking right now. One can only imagine that it is due to this and other gifts that the Church decided to make him Pope. Indeed it is the mother of all poverty; war nurtures poverty because it needs the poor to fight and die, and in so doing it perpetuates poverty. It preys upon lives and souls! Now this is telling. There is a sharp distinction made here between temporality and eternity; war takes lives – it takes the lives of the innocent and the guilty, the armed and the unarmed, but it has the power to take so much more. War has the power to damn, and in every generation of violence it clings to its damning power over people.
War is the mother of all poverty, a vast predator of lives and souls.—
Pope Francis (@Pontifex) September 04, 2015
Millions of lives – those of soldiers and civilians – have been squandered over the twentieth century by warfare and the effects of war and violence. In the first decade and a half of the twenty-first century we have known nothing but violence and war. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been taken in conflicts throughout Africa, the Middle East, Asia, and South America. Most of these wars have been fuelled by the political and economic interests of Europe and North America. It would not be wrong to say that right now we are in the midst of the Third World War; our age of permanent warfare and violence is every bit as global and every bit as destructive to life. We have learned nothing at all from the carnage of the past century. All that we have done is make war more sophisticated and destructive. We are death – we have become the destroyer of worlds. Those who have made themselves the architects and engineers of this present global war – as those who engineered the wars of the past hundred years – have put their very souls on the line, and some, I fear, have crossed over. When the Archbishop of Canterbury can advance the case for military action in Syria we know that the lights of goodness and mercy are dwindling fast.