By Elise Harris/CNA
VATICAN --- Pope Francis has been a consistent and vocal personality in condemning the arms trade and urging world leaders to do the same, and he raised his voice on the issue again in his latest prayer video.
Published June 2, the video begins showing two world leaders sitting at a table to sign a join-accord, exchanging copies of the agreement to sign while Pope Francis says that “it’s an absurd contradiction to speak of peace, to negotiate peace, and at the same time promote or permit the arms trade.”
“Is this war or that war really a war to solve problems, or is it a commercial war for selling weapons in illegal trade, and so that the merchants of death get rich?” he asks, as images of explosions and gunfire interchange with frames of the leaders shaking hands dripping with blood.
“Let us put an end to this situation,” he said. “Let us pray all together that national leaders may firmly commit themselves to ending the arms trade which victimizes so many innocent people.”
The topic is one Pope Francis has spoken out about since the beginning of his pontificate, and which he continues to bring up in any relevant occasion.
In fact, the first line of the video is taken almost verbatim from the Pope’s May 2014 speech to seven new ambassadors to the Holy See who presented him with their credentials.
In the speech, Francis spoke about peace, saying “everyone talks about peace (and) everyone claims to want it, (but) the proliferation of weapons of every type leads in the opposite direction.”
He said the arms trade both complicates and distances us from finding solutions to conflicts, especially because “it takes place to a great extent outside the boundaries of the law,” and urged the new ambassadors to work toward eradicating the proliferation of weapons.
The Pope was also outspoken about the topic during his September 2015 speech to the U.S. Congress, in which he emphasized that Christians must ask “why are deadly weapons being sold to those who plan to inflict untold suffering on individuals and society?”
“Sadly, the answer, as we all know, is simply for money: money that is drenched in blood, often innocent blood. In the face of this shameful and culpable silence, it is our duty to confront the problem and to stop the arms trade,” he said.
Last July, in a video message promoting peace in Syria, he lamented that “while the people suffer, incredible quantities of money are being spent to supply weapons to fighters.”
Some of the arms suppliers “are also among those that talk of peace,” he said. “How can you believe in someone who caresses you with the right hand and strikes you with the left hand?”
In his Jan. 22 , 2017, speech to the Diplomatic Corps Accredited to the Holy See, he said part of the peace-building process means eradicating the causes of violence and injustice, one of which is the “deplorable arms trade and the never-ending race to create and spread ever more sophisticated weaponry,” particularly nuclear weapons.
Coincidentally, the Pope’s prayer video was published just days before six countries decided to cut diplomatic ties with the Middle-Eastern country of Qatar over it’s alleged support or terrorism.
On Monday it was announced that Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Yemen and Libya have severed diplomatic relations with Qatar over the terrorism problem, giving Qatari ambassadors just a few days to leave their countries.
The move was made over allegations that Qatar is backing Islamist groups such as ISIS and AL-Qaeda, providing financial support despite recently joining the U.S.-led coalition against IS. Part of the decision also arose from concern that Qatar is getting too cozy with Iran, the growing regional rival of Saudi Arabia and which presents a significant nuclear threat.
What progress will actually come from the decision to cut ties is unknown, especially since Saudi Arabia itself has also been accused by many neighboring countries of financially supporting ISIS. So while the long-term effects of the decision remain to be seen, the move seems to make Francis’ prayer intention all the more timely.
His prayer videos first launched during the Jubilee of Mercy and are part of an initiative of the Jesuit-run global prayer network Apostleship of Prayer. They are filmed in collaboration with the Vatican Television Center and the Argentinian marketing association La Machi.
The Apostleship of Prayer, which produces the monthly videos on the Pope’s intentions, was founded by Jesuit seminarians in France in 1884 to encourage Christians to serve God and others through prayer, particularly for the needs of the Church.
Since the late 1800s, the organization has received a monthly, “universal” intention from the Pope. In 1929, an additional missionary intention was added by the Holy Father, aimed at the faithful in particular.
Starting in January, rather than including a missionary intention, Pope Francis has elected to have only one prepared prayer intention – the universal intention featured in the prayer video – and will add a second intention focused on an urgent or immediate need if one arises.
The prayer intentions typically highlight issues of importance not only for Pope Francis, but for the world, such as families, the environment, the poor and homeless, Christians who are persecuted, youth, women and a swath of other relevant topics in the world today.