Germany's Catholic bishops have acknowledged that the Churches share responsibility for 'war-mongering' in the build-up to the First World War and warned against 'inflated nationalism' and 'destructive self-interest,' reports The Tablet.
The Berlin-based bishops' conference said in a statement that the dimensions of the conflict that left 16 million dead and 21 million wounded were 'still shocking.'
The bishops said that before the war began in 1914, national rivalries trumped the close economic ties between countries, unleashing a conflict of 'previously unimaginable proportions,' in which poison gas and other weapons of mass destruction were used.
It added that Europe's Christian Churches had also played their part in 'war-mongering' at the outbreak of fighting.
'Although the Catholic Church had distanced itself from nineteenth-century nationalism by virtue of its universal character, many bishops, priests, and faithful took the side of those welcoming the war as a chance for spiritual and moral renewal,' they said.
'We know today that many people, including those high up in the Church, brought guilt upon themselves, failing in the national blindness to perceive the suffering of the war's victims, and realising too late the consequences of absolute loyalty to their respective nations.'
Nationalism, if taken to extremes, still posed a threat to peace today, the bishops added. 'As a Church, present throughout the world with a redemptive message for all humanity, we must be determined in opposing all inflated nationalism and every attempt to devalue peoples and cultures. Our times demand an effective response in asserting the common interests of the human family against destructive self-interest,' they said.
Yes, It Could Happen Again (The Atlantic)
World War I and Vatican Diplomacy (Vatican Radio)
Concert marks prelude to World War I (Vatican Radio)