The Two Koreas, St Pius X and the Way to Peace

There is a terrible irony in the fact that this morning the war of words between the two Koreas has escalated. It is no longer just a matter of rhetoric or small arms fire: there has been an artillery exchange and North Korea has been placed on a war footing. It is said that St Pius X died of a broken heart at the outbreak of World War I, and there is surely something in that memory we could all usefully think about.

We tend to think of Piux X in connection with the liturgy or the reform of canon law. Some will reflect on his efforts to improve clergy training and discipline while those of us who love Gregorian chant honour him for having fostered its revival. Scripture scholars probably think more of his foundation of an institute for scriptural studies or his inauguration of a revision of the Latin text of the Bible (the Vulgate). Others again will dwell on his separation of Church and State and his vehement opposition to political organizations laying claim to religious sanction. But I wonder how many will remember those homilies he preached Sunday by Sunday in the courtyards of the Vatican on his favourite theme: the restoration of all things in Christ and the ushering in of peace on earth.

Peace is more than the absence of war, but it has to begin with a cessation of hostilities. While the world looks on aghast at the atrocities of IS or worries about what might happen in the Korean Peninsula, there is a challenge all of us, without exception, need to accept. For there to be peace in the world, there must first be peace in ourselves. Unless we are prepared to lay aside old grievances, face up to old injustices, admit misunderstandings and the mistrust born of them, how can we realistically expect any change in others? It may sound idealistic, even naive; but perhaps if a few more people had been prepared to be reckoned simpletons, the tragic slaughter of World War I could have been avoided. We may be tempted to smile at the antics of Kim Jong-un as others once smiled at the reaction to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. It would be more to the point to ask the prayers of St Pius X instead.


5 thoughts on “The Two Koreas, St Pius X and the Way to Peace”

  1. Yes ! The importance of peace and the desire for it seems to be less than it should for many. This last year’s celebrations of the end of WWI and recently VJ day have in many cases glorified war rather than sincerely thanking and honouring the veterans and recalling the horrors never to be forgotten so we never repeat the mistakes leading to the ‘war to end all wars.’ Nearby here we just had a big concert, the ‘Battle Proms’ with all sorts of military music, spitfires, parachute displays, canons and finally the 1812 newly dubbed by some the ‘battle symphony.’ With all this going on I ask what happened to our need, desire and prayer for peace and goodwill ? As long as we glorify war and victories rather than recall the horrors of it and pray for peace starting in each of our hearts there will be little chance of true peace for our world. There is a time and place for war albeit rarely if we are honest. It just saddens me to see so many celebrating wars they never had to endure themselves. Veterans I have known could never watch or understand those who watch war films, but they religiously took part each year in Rememberance day of which the prime focus used to be honoring sacrifice and remembering never to allow these events to be repeated. Patriotism without holiness and a desire for peace even if you need to fight will risk turning into the specter of nationalism and that is always a monster and another subject. Peace and joy to all. Sadly the words of Jesus come to mind, differentiating His peace from the fickle peace of the world.

    I really enjoyed your recordings at the bottom of the blog. It was a lovely special touch to hear your thoughts in your own voice. But as time is a factor there and time is not a luxury I understand if you don’t continue with them.

    • I think it can be hard to draw the line between remembrance, commemoration and celebration. I like your distinction thatholiness and prayer should come into it.

      My father was involved in the Falklands war in some way. He doesn’t tend to talk about it. He also won’t wear his medals and ties to remembrance events, because he can’t stand being accosted by people who want to fuss or gossip, or use it as a reason to share their busibodying anecdotes with him!

      I guess some people find that opportunity helpful though. Life on civvy street is not the same as in the forces, and the transition between the two is difficult to navigate.

      In the history I studied, we looked at how the lack of celebration of those returning from the Vietnam war to the USA (and indeed the vilification of the conflict in the media) contributed to huge amounts of mental health issues amount the returning veterans. How will society’s judgement of the Iraq war affect those who had no choice but to go, because it was their job?

      I tend to think we should be starting to focus our efforts on commemorating modern conflicts, to support those who need it now.

  2. Jesus came to Earth preaching a message of love, peace and grace. He came without weapons. He urged us to love God with all our might and our neighbours as ourselves. In terms of the current crop of conflicts in Africa and the Middle East there is much for world leaders both temporal and spiritual to do. If Pope Francis and Archbishop Justin would combine their efforts to persuade the UN, IMF and G8 leaders to find solutions to the turmoil in Africa, many lives could be saved and the miserable tide of refugees stemmed. As for Syria, Iraq and Yemen, the sinister machinations of IS and Al Qaeda present similar problems to those inflicted by Hitler, Stalin and other totalitarian potentates in previous years. Choking off the supply of armaments and sustaining resources to these entities would be a start. The will is there. It just needs better coordination.
    Is it too much to seek peace on earth and goodwill to all?

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