What is the state of the world in this opening of 2024? Pope Francis outlined a broad picture in his Jan. 8 address to ambassadors to the Holy See, gathered for the traditional New Year’s audience.
There is a first point that deserves to be emphasized. Pope Francis does not habitually quote Pius XII. This time, he did so twice in the same speech, referring back to Pius XII’s famous Radio Message to the Peoples of the Whole World of December 24, 1944, in which the Pope proposed the foundations of a new international order, developing important concepts, such as the difference between the “people” and the “mass,” which constitutes the degeneration of democracy. This speech of Pius XII deserves to be reread in the run-up to the European elections in June 2024.
But the salient point of Pope Francis’ speech was when he said that alongside the reality, which he has repeatedly denounced, of a “world war in pieces,” he sees the danger of a “true global conflict” approaching. The reference is to the threat of nuclear carnage, which has never been closer than in recent years.
“I see no reason why we should not use nuclear weapons,” said Russian political scientist Aleksander Dugin recently. In an article published in The Spectator on Jan. 6, two days before Pope Francis’ speech, Edward Stawiarski, who met personally with Dugin, writes that he considers the invasion of Ukraine a “Holy War” against the “Satanism” of the West: “It is a major event, perhaps the biggest in history.” According to Dugin, “We are in a situation where either Ukraine will in the future cease to exist and will become part of south and western Russia, or there will be no Russia. Not Russia as it is now. The trouble is there is also a third possibility, where there will be nobody. Neither Russia nor Ukraine nor humanity nor the West.’ The nuclear option, in other words.”
Stawiarski writes, “Dugin explicitly warns that it is folly to ridicule Russia’s reasons for going to war. ‘Eschatology is present in our minds and influences our decisions,’ he says. ‘You can laugh at it, but you should remember that you laugh at people with nuclear weapons. I see no reason why we should not use them or why Putin will hesitate to use them if Russia starts to fail.”
It is difficult to say to what extent Dugin is the “voice” of Vladimir Putin. However, in some circles of the so-called “identity” right, he is regarded as a “master of thought.” In these circles, hatred of the West parallels enthusiasm for Putin’s Russia, seen as the only bastion of traditional values in a corrupt world. Dugin hints that a nuclear war would have neither winners nor losers, but he sees an opportunity for humanity in the global conflict. To the “Great Reset” of the West, he opposes a Russian nuclear “Great Reset” that, through a “reset” of the situation, would allow the forces of the Gnostic tradition to rise, Phoenix-like, from chaos.
If Dugin’s vision is “eschatological,” what is missing in Pope Francis’ discourse is precisely that “theology of history” that constitutes the only possible key to interpreting the events of our times. Pope Francis has repeatedly criticized “Pelagianism,” the heresy whereby man trusts only in his own strength, emancipating himself from the help of grace. But the supernatural power of grace does not appear in Pope Francis’ Jan. 8 address, not even when he condemns surrogacy, wishing, like Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, that it would become a universal crime, or when he attacks the “ideological colonization” of gender, in a perspective that can be shared even on the basis of natural law alone. A natural law, which has moreover been heavily offended by a document signed by Francis himself, such as the Declaration Fiducia Supplicans published on December 18, 2023 by the Dicastery of the Doctrine of the Faith.
But where the Pontiff’s lack of supernatural perspective most surfaces is when he singles out hunger, exploitation and the climate crisis as the main roots of the looming planetary war, without ever mentioning sin, that is, the transgression of divine and natural law, which Popes Benedict XV and Pius XII defined as the main cause of World War I and World War II.
Pope Francis, on March 25, 2022, consecrated Russia and Ukraine to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, but he seems to be unaware that at Fatima itself, in 1917, Our Lady said that wars were a consequence of the sins of men and that only the conversion of humanity would prevent them. A single sin is in itself more serious than a nuclear war because the spiritual death of a soul is a worse misfortune than any physical death. The Pope and bishops have a duty to remind a world immersed in hedonism of these elementary truths of the Catholic Faith.
The consequences of sin are not only individual but social because society has its foundation in the objective order of moral values. In this sense, as Pius XII explained in his first encyclical, Summi Pontificatus, of Oct. 20, 1939, estrangement from Jesus Christ and disavowal of natural law are at the origins of wars and the disintegration of society. International conflicts have their only solution in the Divine Redeemer of Humanity.
Pius XII, in the speech quoted by Pope Francis recalled this in words that Pope Francis did not quote: “Our gaze is spontaneously carried from the bright Child of the crib to the world around us, and the sorrowful sigh of the Evangelist John rises to our lips: ‘Lux in tenebris lucet et tenebrae eam non comprehenderunt’ (Io. I, 5): The light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it. (…) The cradle of the Savior of the world, of the Restorer of human dignity in all its fullness, is the point marked by the covenant between all men of good will. There the poor world, torn by discord, divided by selfishness, poisoned by hatreds, will be granted light, love restored and will be given to set out, in cordial harmony, toward the common goal, to find at last the healing of its wounds in the peace of Christ.”