A senior cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church who served as the Vatican’s ambassador to the United Nations has declared that World War IV has begun.
“We have entered the Fourth World War,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, chief of the Vatican Council for Justice and Peace, in remarks published on September 7. The cardinal added that the Cold War of 1945-1989 was in reality World War III.
He made his comment shortly after the Vatican issued a statement on the September 1 attack of Muslim terrorists on Christian children at a Russian school.
Cardinal Martino is not a hawk by any means, and he harshly opposed the war to liberate Iraq. Without citing Islamic extremism by name his most recent remarks, he did specify its terrorist methods and left no mistake about the aggressor:
“I believe that we are in the midst of another world war,” the cardinal told Italian newspapers. “And it involves absolutely everyone because we don’t know what will happen when we leave a hotel, when we get on a bus, when we go into a coffee bar. War itself is sitting down right next to each and every one of us,” he said.
“Every state has to put in place the best possible policing method and this, naturally, might affect some personal freedoms. States have to carry out a defensive policy,” he added.
Despite the sharpness of his criticism of U.S. policy in Iraq, Cardinal Martino acknowledged in early 2003 that their could be a just reason, in extremis, for invading Iraq and that new realities are forcing a re-thinking of the just-war theory.
His comment about World War IV indicates that the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church continues to reconsider the matter of war in the present-day, post-Cold War world, and that it is placing the Cold War into a historical perspective.
Wars often change their names as events add historical context to them. Few Americans refer to the Civil War as the “War Between the States” any more. It took World War II to change the worldwide view that the Great War of 1914-1918 was actually World War I.
Cardinal Martino’s recognition of the Cold War as World War III and the present “Global War on Terrorism” as World War IV. Coincidentally, or perhaps not, his statement coincided with a Commentary magazine cover story titled “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win.”
The cardinal’s statement does not appear to be an official state position of the Vatican, which has its own equivalent of a foreign ministry and has not commented on the issue. However, it appears to represent the beginning of a change in the thinking of the Catholic Church about the war on terrorism.