CPN believes that the Catholic Church and Catholic theological tradition offer distinctive assets to strengthen peacebuilding efforts. Furthermore, in many areas of ongoing violence and conflict, Catholic actors have been some of the most longstanding advocates for peace and can thus provide invaluable wisdom and established foundations from which effective peacebuilding can flourish. This combination of theological resources and historical presence make the Catholic Church a powerful force for peace, reconciliation, justice, and development. The Catholic Church offers distinctive peacebuilding assets that grant the church a unique “soft power” that can be an important influence on efforts for peace. These assets include institutional capacity, the tradition of Catholic Social Teaching, and an array of ritual and sacramental practices.
The Catholic Church frequently has structural presence that is unparalleled in areas of conflict. The infrastructure that this institutional presence provides frequently leaves the Church as the primary provider of services and humanitarian aid for victims of conflict. And because that infrastructure is so well-established, Church leaders are often figures of trust for actors on all sides of conflict, allowing those Church leaders to accompany leaders of conflicting groups and help facilitate efforts at mediation and reconciliation. Furthermore, its institutional nature positions the Church as able to integrate horizontal efforts for peace at the grassroots with vertical dimensions of social and governmental power, an integration necessary for stable peace. Additionally, local Church structures are indigenous institutions, giving them a stronger level of investment and commitment than other groups, like international NGOs, that means they remain even when violence erupts.
The volume and extent of Catholic reflection on social justice and ethics, Catholic Social Teaching, offers a wealth of resources for thinking about and mobilizing peacebuilding. The Catholic Church’s systematic and developed body of literature on concepts such as the dignity of the human person, solidarity, the common good, subsidiarity, and the preferential option for the poor and vulnerable provide an effective vocabulary for peacebuilding work and give rise to a duty to commit to peace. This teaching calls for active cultivation of conditions of justice and equity that foster peace, reduce conflict, and enable social reconciliation. Catholic Social Teaching also provides a valuable foundation for ongoing academic research and reflection about the praxis and theory of peacebuilding.
The Catholic emphasis on ritual and sacrament can invoke a depth in peacebuilding efforts that is crucial to allowing real transformation to occur socially and within individual actors. Catholic rituals can provide a space in which conflicting sides can meet to pursue reconciliation and transformation and in which community can be reconciled and restored. By modeling such reconciliation and restoration, this distinctive style of religious practice can provide hope for realizing such change and empower individuals along the way toward that realization.
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