The former Ambassador to the Vatican reflects on how Pope John Paul II reacted to those horrific attacks and tragic events which took place on 9/11. “Pope John Paul II saw the September 11, 2001 terrorist atrocities as attacks not only on the United States, but on ‘all of humanity’ ”, recounts James R. Nicholson, the former U.S. Ambassador to the Vatican. The Pope stated this to Nicholson “We must stop these people who kill in the name of God”. Nicholson also pointed out that though John Paul II was “first and foremost a man of peace,” he also understood the doctrine of just war and the responsibility of leaders to protect the innocent from evil forces.
Here is James Nicholson’s entire article on Pope John Paul II and 9/11:
Pope John Paul II, although a man of the Church, was possessed with an uncommon sense for the dynamics of globalism and the complexities of peoples and cultures.
My first one-on-one meeting with Pope John Paul II was on September 13, 2001. The occasion was the formal presentation of my diplomatic credentials as the new United States Ambassador to the Holy See. It was planned to be a festive occasion; instead, it was a sad event as the world was grieving the horrific events of just 48 hours prior.
The first thing the Pope said to me was how sorry he felt for my country, which had just been attacked, and how sad it made him feel. We next said a prayer together for the victims and their families.
Then the Pope said something very profound and very revealing of his acute grasp of international terrorism. He said, “Ambassador Nicholson, this was an attack, not just on the United States, but on all of humanity.” And, then he added, “We must stop these people who kill in the name of God.”
The Pope’s words about the attackers of America on 9/11, and our need, indeed our moral obligation “to do something” was invaluable to the U.S. in assembling a “Coalition of the Willing,” as President Bush called it. It was the Pope’s instant and keen grasp of the situation – the Afghanistan-based launching of these terrorist attacks — that compelled him to lend his moral influence to his friend and ally, the United States.
He knew exactly what he was saying and the effect it would have on the other countries who were trying to decide whether or not to join us as military partners in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda and its collaborators. The Pope didn’t pause, hesitate or equivocate when he communicated through me to our President and the leaders of like-minded countries to push back against those stateless terrorists who tried to align themselves under the protective wall of Afghanistan’s sovereignty.
Pope John Paul II grew up under the repressive regimes of both the Nazis and the Communists. He knew well the effects on freedom and dignity that those with an ideological agenda and matching military resources could wreak on innocent people.
The Pope had played a key role in what George Weigel call the “revolution of conscience” in Poland. He was instrumental in the demise of the Soviet Union and European Communism, and he was well practiced in the intricacies of using discreet moral force to influence international bodies.
Being first and foremost a man of peace, Pope John Paul II also understood the Just War doctrine of the Church and the responsibility of leaders to protect innocent people from evil forces. He respected President Bush and his “prudential judgment” in deciding what was legitimate to protect the common good.
In 2004, President Bush, with gratitude and respect for his solidarity with American values, presented the Pope with the Medal of Freedom, which is the highest award the United States bestows on a civilian.
Here is Pope Benedict XVI’s letter to Archbishop Dolan on the September 11th tenth anniversary:
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
On this day my thoughts turn to the somber events. of September 11, 2001, when so many innocent lives were lost in the brutal assault on the twin towers of the World Trade
Center and the further attacks in Washington D.C. and Pennsylvania. I join you in commending the thousands of victims to the infinite mercy of Almighty God and in asking our heavenly Father to continue to console those who mown the loss of loved ones .
The tragedy of that day is compounded by the perpetrators’ claim to be acting in God’s name. Once again, it must be unequivocally stated that no circumstances can ever justify acts of terrorism. Every human life is precious in God’s sight and no effort should be spared in the attempt to promote throughout the world a genuine respect for the inalienable rights and dignity of individuals and Peoples everywhere.
The American people are to be commended for the courage and generosity that they showed in the rescue operations and for their resilience in moving forward with hope and confidence. It is my fervent prayer that a firm commitment to justice and a global culture of solidarity will help rid the world of the grievances that so often give rise to acts of violence and will create the conditions for greater peace and prosperity, offering a brighter and more secure future.
With these sentiments, I extend my most affectionate greetings to you, your brother Bishops and all those entrusted to your pastoral care, and I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing as a pledge of peace and serenity in the Lord.
We must never forget 9/11. Evil came to our shores like it had never before on September 11, 2001. We must always stand up to evil. The evil attacks that happened on 9/11 were an attack against all humanity for these terrorists attacks were against our freedom and liberty. My prayers go out to the families who are still grieving and missing loved ones who were lost on that fateful day.
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