Vatican nuncio to U.N. speaks at Tufts

The Tufts University Chaplaincy welcomed Archbishop Celestino Migliore, apostolic nuncio and permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, Dec. 2 to speak on war and peace issues as part of a lecture series on religion and politics.

Father David M. O’Leary, university chaplain, welcomed the archbishop and said that he was honored when Archbishop Migliore responded positively to his request to participate in the six-part series entitled “Forum on Religion and Politics.”

Archbishop Migliore, who has been an active representative of the Holy See on peace issues, chose to speak on the 1963 encyclical “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”) written by Pope John XXIII. He titled his talk “Pacem in Terris: Are We There Yet?”

Before the lecture began, Father O’Leary also welcomed Archbishop Seán P. O’Malley, who was attending the lecture, and asked him to say a few words about the encyclical and his relationship with Archbishop Migliore.

Archbishop O’Malley said that he was in the seminary at the time “Pacem in Terris” was written and gave a valedictory address on the encyclical in Latin. When Archbishop O’Malley was a priest working with immigrants in Washington, D.C., Archbishop Migliore helped by working with Portuguese immigrants there.

"When I heard that he was coming here to give this lecture I though I'd take advantage to come and be a part of it," said Archbishop O'Malley. "I'm so delighted that he's here. He's a magnificent priest and bishop, and we're so pleased the Holy Father has named him to the United Nations."

Also in attendance was Maria C. Parker, associate public policy director of the Massachusetts Catholic Conference (MCC) and representative of the World Union of Catholic Women’s Organizations. Parker moderated an October symposium in which Archbishop Migliore participated, commemorating the 40th anniversary of “Pacem in Terris.”

Archbishop Migliore began his address to the approximately 30 people in attendance by explaining that an encyclical is a “letter written by the pope, often directed to bishops, but intended for the whole Church.” The title of each encyclical comes from the first two or three words of the letter. The official text of each papal letter is in Latin.

The archbishop raised the question asked by some: “What entitles the pope, a spiritual leader, to deal with secular issues?”

The Christian faith and the life of a Christian “revolves around the new commandment given by Jesus: Love one another as I have loved you,” said Archbishop Migliore. This commandment he said “takes priority” over all other liturgical celebration.

"Loving our neighbor on the social scale means trying to organize our society on the grounds of love, the ground of the common good; therefore, looking at all and every aspect of our existence from the perspective of love, of creating unity in our world, of promoting the common good of human society," he stated. "This is what prompts the pope to shed light -- the light of the Gospel -- on the different aspects of our social and international life."

Furthermore, “Human beings are created with the capacity of moral choice,” he continued. “No human activity takes place outside the sphere of moral judgement, therefore it, too, is subject to moral scrutiny.” In this sense, international politics is subject to “moral scrutiny,” he said.

When he writes encyclicals such as “Pacem in Terris,” the “pope does not speak with the competence of a military official or any head of state ... He speaks as a Church leader and tries to understand what happens and to clarify the important events and phenomena from the Gospel’s point of view,” stated Archbishop Migliore.

The archbishop went on to describe the international climate at the time “Pacem in Terris” was written. The two world wars had been fought, the Church in Europe was being persecuted, the Berlin Wall had been erected, and the Cuban Missile crisis had temporarily paralyzed the United States.

"The road to peace and justice and freedom seemed blocked," said the archbishop. However, "Pope John XXIII did not agree with those who claimed that peace was impossible."

The encyclical Pope John XXIII would go on to write outlined “the central conditions for peace as truth, justice, love and freedom,” said Archbishop Migliore. “These four pillars were to contribute to the shaping of new orders and new styles of government.”

"The road to peace, according to the encyclical, lies in the defense and promotion of basic human rights, which every human being enjoys not as a benefit given by different social classes or conceded by the state, but particularly because of our humanity," he continued.

The archbishop said that human rights movements began to arise as a result of “Pacem in Terris.” He stated that these movements “were instrumental in creating governments that were more democratic and participatory.”

Forty years after it was written, the encyclical continues to influence world leaders and the international climate, continued Archbishop Migliore. “Pacem in Terris” acutely affected Pope John Paul II’s views on globalization, the archbishop said. In 1983, Pope John Paul II gave his support to the Solidarity movement in Poland, which he saw as “a non-violent approach that substituted the battle of classes for solidarity,” said the archbishop.

The Church continues “to believe that peace is possible,” he said, mentioning that Pope John Paul II met with “all parties involved” before the war in Iraq to try to find a peaceful end to the crisis. On June 5, he sent a letter to Kofi Annan, secretary general for the United Nations, urging him to be involved in the aftermath of the war there.

The pope’s “leadership does not [lie] in armed divisions, neither in economic power, nor in power conferred by majority vote ... it rests on moral leadership,” said Archbishop Migliore.

Both the president, Anna Brennan, and vice-president, Robert Curry, of the Tufts Catholic Community attended the lecture and enjoyed hearing the Catholic perspective on war and peace.

"I thought it was very interesting to get the religious perspective on a lot of different issues and world conflicts," said Brennan, a senior at Tufts.

Curry, also a senior, agreed, saying, “I really enjoyed it because it clarified the Vatican’s position on international politics.”

Fellow classmate and comparative religion major Alexis Gerber, who is active in the Jewish community at Tufts, was also interested by the archbishop’s message.

"To sit here and hear someone as articulate as the archbishop talking on current issues is really quite powerful," she said. "This whole series is an incredible interaction between religion and politics."

Bill Caines, a parishioner at St. Raphael Parish in Medford, also welcomed a “spiritual perspective on political issues.”

"I thought it was insightful, because most of the time when we hear of peace we get it from politicians or statesmen," he said. "When lay people or the public perceive a decision or resolution, they see it through a power base. What we're looking at is that a peaceful institution [the Church] can influence those decisions through diplomatic means."