BERLIN — Germany’s Catholic bishops criticized the country’s growing arms industry and urged greater commitment to settling the world’s armed conflicts.
The message was included in a 24-page bishops’ conference brochure for the Jan. 1 World Day of Peace.
“Peace isn’t just a job for politicians,” said the conference president, Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg.
“It must shake us awake when we realize arms exports are such a flourishing business, as military and paramilitary demands increase,” he said. “Images from the world’s conflict zones show how far we are from peaceful coexistence.”
Archbishop Zollitsch said 2012 had witnessed “worldwide terrorism, devastating wars in Africa and escalating conflict in the Middle East.” He said economic globalization required a “further development of international order,” which took account of “the global common good as a horizon for local actions.”
“Although world peace is generally recognized as a political goal, it often lacks the necessary commitment of power, especially when entrenched economic interests and ideological blindness fuel warlike confrontation,” he said. “Every individual can and must contribute to a more peaceful world, benevolently embracing families, neighborhoods, schools and workplaces. Where conflicts erupt, every means should be used to help them de-escalate.”
As demands from the German army decreased, German arms exports increased and now account for three-quarters of national arms production.
In several 2012 reports, the Der Spiegel weekly said Germany was now the world’s third-largest arms supplier, after the United States and Russia, and it mentioned sales to undemocratic regimes.
Among recent examples, it listed the sale of 270 Leopard 2 tanks to Saudi Arabia and said the tanks were used to suppress pro-democracy protests in Bahrain; frigates and armored personnel carriers to Algeria; and nuclear-capable Dolphin-class submarines to Israel.
Der Spiegel said the German arms industry, employing 80,000, took around a tenth of worldwide defense profits, currently $1.8 trillion annually.
A spokesman for the Freiburg Archdiocese, Robert Eberle, told Catholic News Service Jan. 4, “We hope the church’s voice will have some impact on this big business field and be heard by people who matter.”
Writing in the conference brochure, Germany’s Catholic military bishop, Essen Bishop Franz-Josef Overbeck said the 2012 conflict in Syria showed peace would only be achieved through “negotiations for a justified balance of interests,” adding that the Catholic Church should “set a pastoral example in working for peace and solidarity.”
“The voice of conscience exists in every person,” Bishop Overbeck said, “but it’s often concealed by the noise of weapons, aggression, fury and wrath. Christians are especially needed here in tackling the age-old question of how peace can be secured for humanity.”