During his pontifcate (1978-2005), John Paul II frequently spoke of issues related to war and peace. In those years, the application of the time-honoured Catholic just war tradition faced many challenges, among them the ongoing Cold War, the emergence of humanitarian interventions and the war on terrorism. This article focuses on the role that the Catholic just war tradition has played in John Paul II's words on war and peace. After a brief discussion of the tradition's characteristics and history, it provides a short history of John Paul II's words on just war. We can divide this history into three stages: (1) from the threat of nuclear war to the end of the Cold War (1978-1990); (2) the first Gulf War and humanitarian interventions (1990-2001) and (3) the war on terrorism (2001-2005). Finally, the article evaluates the pope's words in the context of his peace ethics. In some ways, the pope's ideas on peace were a continuation of those of his predecessors; in other ways, he unmistakably added his own accents. More than his predecessors, this pope spoke about the importance of respect for human dignity and the resulting inalienable human rights as the heart of peace (and of the consequences of this for international law and the international community) as well as of the importance of inter-religious and oecumenical dialogue for achieving peace. Nourished by this peace ethics and in the light of the political events of the time, John Paul II adapted the Catholic just war tradition. The article explains that John Paul II had an ambivalent attitude toward this tradition, as evinced in the strain between thinking in terms of the just use of violence (the just war tradition) and nonviolence as a matter of principle (tradition of pacifism). Secondly, the pope accepted and reaffirmed the just war tradition, although, when doing so, he always heavily emphasised the stringent conditions that justified military violence and the preference for non-violent solutions. Thirdly, the pope added new accents to the just war tradition. In one case he expanded the tradition with just humanitarian interventions and the just battle against terrorism; in another, he shifted the accent in applying the criteria of ius ad bellum and ius in bello, to give central place to reluctance to use (military) violence. [Trans. Cath. Romanik].

Tijdschrift voor Theologie
Erasmus University Rotterdam

Neelissen, P.A. (2011). John Paul II and just war: Continuity and renewal in applying the catholic tradition on just war, 1978-2005. Tijdschrift voor Theologie (Vol. 51, pp. 371–390). Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/1765/84878