Give Peace a Chance: The Time Is Now for Kennedy to Meet with Pope Francis

Give Peace a Chance: The Time Is Now for Kennedy to Meet with Pope Francis
American Values 2024 | March 14, 2024

While Pope Francis is still on this Earth, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. should meet with him and join his call for world peace.

Both men are devoted Catholics. And both deeply believe – as men of faith – that we were put here to uplift humanity, not to kill each other. They share a sense of divine mission. They also know that ending war in Ukraine, Gaza, Sudan, and wherever it now destroys life takes a special political will.

Pope Francis, who has called repeatedly for a peaceful settlement in Ukraine and a ceasefire in Gaza, stirred global controversy last week when he urged Ukrainian leaders to negotiate an end to the war. The war, which has claimed the lives of over 44,000 Ukrainian fighters and nearly 11,000 civilians since it began in February 2022, cannot possibly be won by Ukraine, despite the bluster and weaponry from the West. It would be a sign of strength not weakness to finally conclude it, according to the pope.

“I think that the strongest one is the one who looks at the situation, thinks about the people and has the courage of the white flag, and negotiates,” Pope Francis told an interviewer for the Swiss broadcaster RSI. “The word ‘negotiate’ is a courageous word. When you see that you are defeated, that things are not going well, you have to have the courage to negotiate.”

The pontiff has also urgently called for peace in Gaza, where over 31,000 Palestinians have been killed – mostly women and children – in the Israeli military offensive and over 100 Israeli hostages are still being held captive by Hamas.

“I carry in my heart every day, with pain, the suffering of the populations in Palestine and in Israel, because of the ongoing hostilities,” he told the thousands of pilgrims and Romans gathered in St. Peter’s Square on Sunday March 3.

“Thousands of dead, wounded, displaced people, enormous destruction, cause sorrow, and this with tremendous consequences on the little ones and the defenseless who see their future compromised.… Does one truly think of building a better world in this way? Does one truly think of reaching peace [in this way]?”

“Stop, please! Let us all say: Enough, please! Stop!” he pleaded, drawing loud applause.

Kennedy has also been outspokenly critical of the war in Ukraine, which he lamented has killed “the flower of Ukrainian youth.” And recently he sat down for a long, thoughtful podcast with Palestinian Mohammad Dajani Daoudi and Israeli Yossi Klein Halevi – two friends and Jerusalem neighbors who are devoted to the cause of peace in the Middle East.

Kennedy has made the pressing need to draw down the US empire – with its “forever wars” and its crushing tax burden on the middle class – a central theme of his presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party he was forced to abandon has become “the war party” of neocon hawks, despite the recent expulsion of Victoria Nuland from the State Department.

The Democrats’ belligerent rhetoric was on display last week at the start of President Joe Biden’s State of the Union speech, as he called on Ukraine to fight the Russian invaders to the last Ukrainian and on Congress to keep funding the bloody debacle. And on Tuesday, the Biden administration announced it was sending $300 million more “security assistance” to Ukraine, as its request for billions of additional dollars remains bogged down in Congress.

Pope Francis shares Kennedy’s moral outrage at the war profiteers, who contribute loads of cash to both dominant political parties. During his Christmas Day sermon to the throngs gathered below St. Peter’s Basilica, Francis attacked the weapons industry and its “instruments of death” that fuel wars all over the globe.

RFK Jr. has denounced the war industry with equal vehemence, blasting it for militarizing our economy and democracy. “We are living in the military-industrial complex,” he has said in speeches, pointing out that the killing machine has dangerously metastasized since President Eisenhower warned about it in his farewell address to the nation in January 1961.

There is a strong historical precedent for a Kennedy allying with a visionary pope for world peace.

In spring 1963, President Kennedy entered into back-channel discussions with Pope John XXIII – who was understandably alarmed by how close humanity had come to extinction the previous year during the Cuban Missile Crisis – and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, using journalist Norman Cousins as a go-between. When Khrushchev told Cousins that he wanted a peace signal from JFK, the president delivered the historic Peace Speech, whose poetic cadence still rings powerfully today. (“We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.”)

The Peace Speech led, in turn, to the Limited Test Ban Treaty, which banned atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. It was the first major arms control agreement “in that terrible era known as the nuclear age,” as JFK speechwriter Theodore Sorensen proudly told me in an interview for Brothers, my 2007 book about the beleaguered Kennedy presidency.

The military-industrial lobby was well financed and well connected on Capitol Hill and the Senate was fortified against ratifying the treaty. But President Kennedy was equally determined, shocking White House aides by announcing he would “gladly” sacrifice his second term for the treaty. Radioactive traces from the aboveground atomic testing were already turning up in children’s bones and teeth – even in mothers’ breast milk – his scientific advisors informed him. With Pope John’s blessing, JFK masterfully guided the Limited Test Ban Treaty through the Senate in September 1963.

A peace meeting today between Pope Francis and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., JFK’s nephew, would have a similar historic weight. It would highlight their joint call for world peace, as we hurtle again toward mindless destruction. And it would elevate the discussion about endless war in this country, a national political dialogue that Americans urgently need to have, but which neither major political party – nor the mainstream media – has raised.

Pope Francis, who is 87, is reportedly not in good health. He’s been confined to a wheelchair during public appearances. And a recent bout with flu and bronchitis sent him to the hospital. He had part of one lung removed when he was young.

RFK Jr. should act now on the peace plea because Pope Francis’s successor might not be as amenable to such a meeting.

Peace is a central component of both men’s message. They know that if we don’t stop destroying each other, nothing else is possible. There can be no global cooperation, no progress on climate change, poverty, public health, human rights, or any other vital international issue.

It’s time to save the world.

Thanks for reading The Kennedy Beacon!

American Values 2024 © All Rights Reserved 2024