By Courtney Mares
Pope Francis met with military chaplains from around the world Thursday, as they participate in a formation course on international humanitarian law hosted by the Vatican.
“Dear Ordinaries and military chaplains: as you carry out your mission to form the consciences of the members of the armed forces, I encourage you to spare no effort to enable the norms of international humanitarian law to be accepted in the hearts of those entrusted to your pastoral care,” Pope Francis said in the Apostolic Palace Oct. 31.
“The Second Vatican Council calls those in military service ‘custodians of the security and freedom of their people,’” he said. “The servants of Christ in the military world are also the first to be at the service of men and women and of their fundamental rights.”
More than 130 Catholic military chaplains from 70 countries are participating in the formation course offered in international humanitarian law at the Patristic Institute Augustinianum in Rome Oct. 29-31.
The theme of this year’s course, the fifth of its kind, is: “The Loss of Personal Freedom in the Context of Armed Conflicts: The Mission of the Military Chaplain.”
Pope Francis said that war prisoners have been subject to violations of their human dignity, including abuse, violence, cruelty treatment, and various forms of “inhuman and degrading” torture.
“International humanitarian law contains a number of provisions aimed at the protection of the dignity of detainees; this is especially the case in regard to the law governing international armed conflicts,” he said.
“The ethical foundation and crucial importance of these norms for safeguarding human dignity in the tragic context of armed conflicts means that they must be properly and rigorously respected and enforced,” he added.
The pope stressed that it is particularly important that human dignity of prisoners be upheld “independently of the nature and gravity of the crimes they may have committed.”
“Respect for the dignity and physical integrity of the human person, in fact, cannot depend upon the actions they have done, but is a moral duty to which every person and every authority is called,” Pope Francis said.