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Jesuit Journals and the First World War: On nationalism and dialogue
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In Lourdes, in July 1914, German and French Catholics, each in their own language, peacefully prayed together. “Two weeks later, the war in Europe broke out, and the pilgrims of Lourdes, having gone home, clashed against one another, under the shadow of their own flags. Those who yesterday greeted each other as brothers and sisters, now were fighting as enemies.” For the Catholics on each front, the outbreak of the First World War was not seen as the latest consequence of a decades-old rupture; rather, it was felt as the painful destruction of an international solidarity. And Fr. Jules Lebreton, of the French Jesuit journal, Études, who authored the lines quoted above, asked himself how to confront this experience.

According to him, neither desperation about the unity and understanding among peoples nor desertion were valid responses. As for all of the writers of the journal, for him, fighting for France did not mean only defending the homeland, but also defending religion and Christian civilization.

His reflection, however, goes beyond the war: how could an eventual reconciliation come about after the traumas of war, without putting justice and injustice on the same level or without, for the sake of convenience, equally dividing responsibility between the parties? One must start with the cross of Christ, which teaches us to look the worst crimes in the eyes, to call injustice what it is without, however, allowing ourselves to be sucked into the vortex of hatred.
© Union of Catholic Asian News 2024
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