Pope Condemns Both Terror and Violations of Geneva Pact


New York Times

December 13, 2005

VATICAN CITY, Dec. 13 - Pope Benedict XVI on Tuesday condemned terrorism, nuclear arms and, apparently in a reference to allegations that the United States has tortured terror suspects, lack of respect for international law.

The issue of torture has stirred anger in Europe, and Benedict, in the annual papal message for peace, cited Vatican policy that "not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced."

He did not mention the United States or torture specifically in his 14-page address, released Tuesday to mark the Vatican's World Day of Peace, which falls on Jan. 1.

"International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace," he wrote. "Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples."

Asked if the pope was specifically addressing allegations of C.I.A. jails in Europe for terror suspects, Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Vatican office that helped develop the address, told reporters here that the pope was "not condemning anyone."

Rather, he said, Benedict was "inviting" all countries that have signed the Geneva Conventions governing the conduct of war to "respect" them. He also said the Vatican abhorred torture for whatever reason.

"Torture is a humiliation of the human person, whoever it is," said Cardinal Martino, head of the Pontifical Council on Peace and Justice. "The church does not allow these means to extract the truth."

"There are many other ways of doing it," he added.

The addresses amount to an annual papal survey of war around the world, and Benedict cited some reason for hope, noting that the actual number of conflicts has declined. He also cited hopes for reduction of the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, of particular interest to the Vatican because it takes places in the birthplace of Jesus.

"All this must not, however, lead to a naïve optimism," he said.

He devoted much of his address to the "criminal threats and attacks" of terrorism, an issue that he confronted with force in his first major meeting with Muslims in Germany this summer. In the address, he called terror a deadly fusion of nihilism and fundamentalism.

"The nihilist denies the very existence of truth, while the fundamentalist claims to be able to impose it by force," he wrote. "Despite their different origins and cultural backgrounds, both show a dangerous contempt for human beings and human life, and ultimately for God himself."

He also wrote with worry about the continuing threat of nuclear weapons, decrying the pace of disarmament generally as "bogged down." He said the idea that nuclear weapons ensured a nation's safety "is not only baneful but also completely fallacious.

"In a nuclear war, there would be no victors, only victims," he said.

And in two passages, he seemed to be making reference to Iran, locked in bitter talks with European negotiators over its plans for nuclear enrichment. He spoke not only of governments that "openly or secretly possess nuclear arms" but also of "those planning to acquire them."

He also spoke of "those authorities who, rather than making every effort to promote peace, incite their citizens to hostility toward other nations."

In recent weeks, Iran's president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has delivered strong speeches against Israel, appearing to question whether the Holocaust happened and calling for Israel to be "wiped off the map."