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Just peace despite war? In defense of a criticized concept

From the outset, the idea of European integration has been linked to the desire for peace and reconciliation. It is one of the essential themes and guiding principles of Europe,[1] and one of the most important lessons from its history.[2] From the Treaty of Rome (1957) to the Lisbon Treaty (2009), the aim of the European Union (EU) has been to promote peace, European values and the well-being of the European peoples. The focus on peace – which led to the EU being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2012 – also applies to the armed forces of its member states. For the EU sees itself as a global actor for peace within the framework of its Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP) and value-based foreign policy. Peace can therefore be regarded as a core European value, alongside justice.[3]

Thus, anyone seeking a frame of reference for the military professional ethics of European armed forces cannot get away from the fact that these forces are to be legitimized in terms of peace ethics. In the Christian churches, the concept of just peace has become established as an ethical approach that takes account not only of the Christian commandment of peace, but also of the demand that policymaking and the military should be oriented toward peace. However, the concept of just peace – which in essence is aimed at preventing violence – faces major challenges. At present, commentators are not afraid to use terms such as “world in turmoil” (Herfried Münkler) or “world disorder” (Carlo Masala) to describe the global situation resulting from current conflicts and wars, which they deem an attestation to the failure of the West’s values-based foreign and security policy. This form of self-criticism can also be observed in the discussion of peace ethics in church circles. With the Russian war of aggression demonstrating a failure of measures to prevent violence, a growing number of voices have been heard saying that the concept of just peace has failed and that peace ethics should return to the doctrine of just war – or at least pay more attention to its core demands. The following are just a few such voices from within the Roman Catholic Church in Germany: Manfred Spieker called for a move away from just peace in response to the Ukraine war, arguing that the concept “obscures” the Church’s doctrine of just war, and makes just defense impossible.[4] Peter Schallenberg thinks that the war in Ukraine has revived the doctrine of just war, that just war and just peace are an expression of a Christian doctrine of the two swords, and that the latter cannot exist without the former.[5] Franz-Josef Bormann also believes that we need criteria for examining the legitimacy of the use of military force, which can be found in particular in the doctrine of just war, and thus holds that it has not been possible to answer the question of the legitimacy of military force solely on the basis of a doctrine of just peace.[6]

The collapse of the doctrine of just war

The criticism of just peace is understandable in view of the Russian aggression, and correlates to a certain extent with the Zeitenwende (watershed moment) that has taken place in politics. Nevertheless, there are also objections to the renaissance of the just war concept, which will be discussed below. Firstly, there is a historical and conceptual objection: In Friedensethik für eine globalisierte Welt [“Peace Ethics for a Globalized World”], published in 2018, Eberhard Schockenhoff argues in a detailed and convincing manner that at the beginning of the 20th century, i.e. before and during the First World War, the doctrine of just war had collapsed internally. It “degenerated into a theoretical legitimization of almost all wars, including total war of annihilation, both on the theoretical level and through the practical use which national propaganda and religious enthusiasm for war made of it”. During the First World War, Schockenhoff continues, “theologians and bishops, but also liberal philosophers, still held onto the conviction that a just and necessary war was being waged at a time when the military conflict, in the phase of the war of attrition, had long since assumed the form of anonymized and mechanized mass killing”.[7]

In recent years, historical research on the First World War and perceptions of it in the Christian churches has highlighted a morality of war stemming from the traditional body of Christian thought and expressed in the doctrine of just war. This research has described how this morality of war failed under conditions of modern warfare and how it didn’t succeed in humanizing warfare and containing military force. Instead, just war became part of a nationalistic legitimization of war that firmly rejected any orientation toward the common good that went beyond one’s own nation. In the second year of the war, the philosopher Max Scheler (1874-1928) wrote that just war would result in the moral purification of the enemy. Through their defeat, they would come to realize that their own “national and moral existence” was flawed and defective. He even thought that such a war would have a pacifying effect: “In a just war, the hurtful sword of the superior enemy is necessarily always also perceived as a healing sword of judgment.”[8] However, for him it was beyond doubt that only the Germans were fighting a just war, and that the expected healing would be brought about only by their victory. The nationalization of the morality of just war prevented purification, peace and reconciliation from taking hold among the defeated.[9]

Antonia Leugers and Andreas Holzem have persuasively shown that while Christian theologians had intended that the doctrine of just war would contain hatred and violence, this did not work in Germany after the lost war. The First World War remained “a field of justice and honor for the majority of those who had taken part in it and who now interpreted it, while peace remained a non-place of injustice and ignominy”.[10] In the religious interpretation, the link between justice and war was dependent on victory, which meant that defeat in war was seen as an injustice. No alternative approach to the trauma of the lost war was found. The churches in particular, “as major religious systems, had no idea of peace that could have linked an acceptance and acknowledgement of defeat with an idea of future and reconciliation”.[11] The doctrine of just war failed here, and adherence to it was part of the problem.

The Second World War further exacerbated the problem as the just war criteria had even less effect. The principle of proportionality and the balancing of conflicting interests, the distinction between combatants and non-combatants, and other achievements of ius in bello were not only disregarded in the National Socialist policy of extermination, but were also rendered obsolete by the now more advanced degree of technologization and totalization of modern warfare. The lasting discrediting of just war due to the devastating impacts of military violence forced the churches in particular to rethink war as such. It is worth recalling the first Assembly of the World Council of Churches, which made it unmistakably clear as early as 1948 that the doctrine of just war had failed. The unbridled violence of modern war had reduced the link between war and justification to absurdity, with the result that this doctrine could no longer claim validity. The delegates made a theological commitment to a principle that had been formulated three years earlier, in the Charter of the United Nations, as a general prohibition of violence under international law. Criticism of the right to wage war on the one hand, and moral condemnation of war on the other – resulting from the experience of two world wars, the use of weapons of mass destruction and the high number of civilian casualties – meant that both policymakers and the churches were required to find a new form of responsibility for peace. The question of when and how war could be morally permissible no longer seemed to provide adequate answers to the possibilities of military force.

Well-known examples of this reorientation of Christian peace ethics on the Catholic side are the encyclical Pacem in terris of Pope John XXIII from 1963, or the statements on peace ethics made by the Second Vatican Council two years later. This reorientation was succinctly expressed in the 1980s by the “Ecumenical Assembly for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation in the GDR”: “With the necessary overcoming of the institution of war, the doctrine of just war, through which the churches hoped to humanize war, also comes to an end. Therefore, a doctrine of just peace must be developed from now on (…)”[12] At the beginning of the new millennium, various churches took up this call for the establishment of such a doctrine; the German bishops’ pastoral letter A Just Peace (2000) and the EKD peace memorandum Aus Gottes Frieden leben – für gerechten Frieden sorgen [“Living in God’s Peace – Taking Care of Just Peace”] (2007) come to mind. The emphasis here was placed on creating structures suited to preventing wars, the peaceful resolution of conflicts, and avoiding violence. At the same time – and this shows that the model of just peace was conceived as an alternative both to just war and to unconditional pacifism – it was said that peace and non-violence must not be made absolute in such a way as to legitimize unjust conditions. It is not a question of peace at any price, but about maintaining or creating just conditions, and if necessary doing so by force.[13] Because peace is more than the absence of violence: “a world that does not provide the majority of people with the basic needs of a humane life is not viable. Even when there are no wars, such a world is still full of violence. A situation dominated by long-term and severe injustice is inherently violent.”[14]

Violence-prevention measures and non-violent civilian conflict management take priority in order to combat the “underlying causes of war”, but according to the bishops, it must also remain possible to use military force as a last resort if peace cannot be achieved and suffering cannot be averted in any other way. Hence this concept does not rule out humanitarian interventions. However – and here is the great advantage and difference compared to the doctrine of just war – action must essentially be aimed at peace and non-violence. This includes, centrally, working toward disarmament, strengthening international organizations, and building an international order of peace and the rule of law. The approach shows that it is about far more than a criteriology for deciding when and how the use of military force is legitimate.

It should therefore not be forgotten that the concept was developed “in conscious rejection of just war”,[15] i.e. in awareness of its aporias. In this context, the pastoral letter by the German bishops marking the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War is interesting. The bishops point out that the effort of historical understanding is necessary in order to comprehend the failure of Christians in the war. Although there was no longer any explicit talk of a just war after the First World War, the German bishops of the time did not protest against the National Socialist war of extermination. “The Church’s traditional view of war and the national awareness clashed with the doubts that had arisen.”[16] The doctrine of just war is held partly responsible here, as “in contradistinction to its intention of limiting violence – had increasingly become a means of legitimising physical force in the modern era, and had contributed towards people becoming accustomed to the use of violent means. Even if doubts had became (sic!) louder since the experiences of the First World War as to the established political approach towards this doctrine, it nonetheless contributed to the vast majority of Christians not yet fundamentally questioning war as a form of political conflict in the first half of the 20th Century.”[17] The model of just peace was a reaction to this and sought to bring the insights of the doctrine of just war to bear in such a way “that they do better justice to the intention of containing violence”.[18]

The Papal magisterium under Francis – a socio-ethical counter-model?

The revival of just war in Catholic thought, stemming from the criticism of just peace, is astonishing. Not only because just peace – as opposed to uncompromising pacifism – can certainly legitimize the use of military force in the form of just defense. But also, according to a second objection, because Pope Francis not only supports the idea of overcoming war, as found in the concept of just peace, but also advocates for it in clear distinction to just war. In his social encyclical Fratelli tutti from 2020, the pope spoke out unequivocally in condemnation of war, focusing on its injustice. By doing this, he showed that the concept of just peace is not a special German approach.

War, the pope said, never serves to resolve conflicts. “Every war leaves our world worse than it was before. War is a failure of politics and of humanity [...]”[19] Pope Francis’ focus on condemning war can to a large extent be found within his Church’s teachings, i.e. in statements within the magisterium of the Catholic Church. The Second Vatican Council and his predecessors in the papacy all called for the strengthening of an international legal order, for peace through law. To prevent war, Francis states, “there is a need to ensure the uncontested rule of law and tireless recourse to negotiation, mediation and arbitration, as proposed by the Charter of the United Nations, which constitutes truly a fundamental juridical norm.”[20] The UN Charter is “an obligatory reference point of justice and a channel of peace.”[21] He therefore strongly condemns the individual interests that some states in the UN pursue without concern for the common good. He urges honest cooperation in the UN and, in this context, also speaks of the ease with which war is chosen as the supposed solution to problems, and justified with “allegedly humanitarian, defensive or precautionary excuses”.

However, he goes a step further in his teachings by not only declaring just war obsolete, but explicitly rejecting it. In his message to the UN Security Council delivered on June 14, 2023, he repeats his criticism of nationalist self-interest undermining the work of the UN. With regard to the countries represented on the Security Council, his statement is striking: “In order to make peace a reality, we must move away from the logic of the legitimacy of war: if this were valid in earlier times, when wars were more limited in scope, in our own day, with nuclear weapons and those of mass destruction, the battlefield has become practically unlimited, and the effects potentially catastrophic. The time has come to say an emphatic ‘no’ to war, to state that wars are not just, but only peace is just.”[22]

The condemnation of modern war on the basis of historical experience, as expressed here, does not necessarily have to be understood as a pacifist position that excludes military force a priori – as the sharp criticism of the pope’s position expressed in the wake of the Russian war of aggression implies. It can also be seen as a commitment to just peace.[23] Three points seem to support this:

(1) Despite his condemnation of war, the pope refers to the catechism of the Catholic Church, which holds open the possibility of “legitimate defense by military force”. Therefore one cannot claim that the pope completely delegitimizes any such use of force, but it seems almost impossible for him to decide when it is morally permissible; i.e. when the hypothetical benefit is greater than the feared harm. Although the catechism mentions some criteria that may legitimize military force, the context has to be taken into account: The passage is about the fifth commandment and the “avoidance of war”.[24] Pope Francis therefore does not contradict the catechism, but presents a very restrictive interpretation. The focus on avoiding war, preventing violence, securing peace and strengthening the United Nations is in line with the Vatican Council and his predecessors in the papacy.

(2) This interpretation is also supported by a phrase that is found repeatedly in papal pronouncements: “Never again war!” These are the words used in 1965 by his predecessor Pope Paul VI in his exhortation to the United Nations General Assembly to work for peace. His successors John Paul II and Benedict XVI insistently repeated this phrase. Francis used it not only in his encyclical, but also in his sermon on All Souls Day in 2017, when he held a mass for the fallen of all wars at the U.S. military cemetery in Nettuno, Italy. The phrase clearly shows that despite new emphases, Francis is consciously following in his predecessors’ footsteps.[25]

(3) With regard to the war in Ukraine, the pope has been accused on a number of occasions of indiscriminately condemning every war – whether a war of aggression or defense. For example, his closing speech at the International Prayer Meeting for Peace in Berlin on October 25, 2022, drew heavy criticism. He said: “The plea for peace cannot be suppressed: It rises from the hearts of mothers; it is deeply etched on the faces of refugees, displaced families, the wounded and the dying. [...] That plea for peace expresses the pain and the horror of war, which is the mother of all poverty.”[26] Francis consistently adopts the viewpoint of the victims, which is more important to him than the question of the legitimacy of a war. For him, the victims are the normative standard when thinking about war: “Let us look once more at all those civilians whose killing was considered ‘collateral damage’. […] Let us think of the refugees and displaced, those who suffered the effects of atomic radiation or chemical attacks, the mothers who lost their children, and the boys and girls maimed or deprived of their childhood. Let us hear the true stories of these victims of violence, look at reality through their eyes, and listen with an open heart to the stories they tell.”[27] At first glance, this looking to the victims as the only source of insights about war may appear to delegitimize military violence. But anyone who seriously advocates this must allow the victims to have their say: the Ukrainians whose lives and country are being destroyed by Russian aggression. The 18 million or so who are dependent on humanitarian aid. The 20,000 stolen children, some of whom have evidently already been given up for adoption. The people massacred and tortured to death in Bucha and other places. The women systematically raped by Russian soldiers. The abductees who were tortured in Russian prison camps. The members of the opposition who were murdered or forced to live in exile, in the fear that they are not safe there either. The civilian population suffering from the large-scale, wanton and unlawful destruction of civilian infrastructure. Is justice really being done to these victims if, apart from compassion, they are not given any emergency assistance as proposed by the model of just peace? If they are not allowed to defend themselves against violence and war crimes, against the destruction of Ukrainian identity? What is certain is that looking at the victims means standing in solidarity with them. And that means saying who are the victims and who the perpetrators.

Just peace – also a political model

A third objection is that it should not be forgotten that there are also voices outside of church circles who argue in favor of a just peace that is not the result of a just war. This shows that the church’s model and its focus on peace is relevant to the political debate. Let us recall the Ukraine resolution adopted by a clear majority of the UN General Assembly on February 23, 2023, calling for an end to violence and a “just peace” for Ukraine. The day before, Josep Borrell, Vice-President of the European Commission and High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, had spoken in support of the resolution at the emergency session of the UN General Assembly. In his speech, he recalled the origins of European integration and pointed out that the EU has always been a peace and reconciliation project: “The European Union has always been a peace project. We have been quite successful in bringing peace to the European continent and promoting it around the world. It is central to our DNA; it is in our origin.” Borrell left no doubt as to what such a peace should look like: It must be a “just peace”, as the resolution explicitly calls for, in line with the United Nations Charter and international law. The day after the resolution, UN Secretary-General António Guterres addressed the UN Security Council in a remarkably similar way. He called the attack on Ukraine a blatant violation of the United Nations Charter and international law. He then drew attention to the numerous Russian war crimes and the tremendous damage caused by the war, and also called for a just peace: “The guns are talking now, but in the end we all know that the path of diplomacy and accountability is the road to a just and sustainable peace.”[28]

A controversy in the German Parliament, the Bundestag, concerning the call for a “peace initiative” for Ukraine and Russia, while a side issue, is nevertheless indicative of the churches’ peace work and how it ties into the political debate. In its motion of February 2, 2023, the right-wing AfD parliamentary group called on the German government to fulfill its responsibility for peace in Europe by working more actively for an end to the fighting and for a peace initiative that would include security guarantees for both warring parties.[29] With the motion, the German parliament would also be supporting the various peace efforts and mediation attempts by individual countries and the United Nations, the proposal made by French President Emmanuel Macron on December 4, 2022, and Pope Francis’ appeal for peace. During the Angelus prayer on October 2, 2022, the pope made a clear statement on the Ukraine war. He directly called on the Russian president to stop the spiral of violence and death, also for the good of his own people, and appealed to the Ukrainian president to be open to “serious proposals for peace”. He again spoke out in condemnation of war: War can never be a solution, and leads only to destruction. “War in itself is an error and a horror.”[30] During the debate in the Bundestag on February 9, 2023, the AfD motion was rejected with indignation across all party political lines, as it failed to mention either the perpetrators or victims. The AfD members of the Bundestag were further accused of favoring a Russian dictatorial peace. Jürgen Trittin (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) launched into a fundamental criticism of the motion, but also discussed an alternative understanding of peace: “We must have peace as the goal of our actions, but we must be clear that this peace cannot exist in the form of a unilateral dictate. It is not based on defenselessness, but a just peace, which is more than the absence of war. The concept of just peace, as defined by the Protestant Church, is something that, as a political model, actually also presupposes a certain ability to defend oneself and that is why it is bitter, it is difficult, but it is necessary to equip Ukraine in such a way that it is not overrun by an imperialist aggressor in the latest in a long line of wars of conquest.”[31] Trittin thus placed just peace as a political model in close proximity to the 2007 EKD peace memorandum. Finally, this clear acknowledgement of the Christian origin of the concept in the political realm raises the question of whether Germany’s Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier was not also making this reference when mentioning a just peace for Ukraine in his speeches.[32]


Peace is a contested and frequently misused term. For this reason, Christian social teaching emphasizes a specific concept of peace: Peace can only be described as such if it enables just conditions and a life in freedom. A peace that leaves people in conditions of injustice, coercion and lack of freedom is not worthy of the name. Doing everything for peace means working for such a just peace.

To do this in distinction to a just war does not mean looking and shying away from the “sharp end” of the military profession – from fighting, killing and dying. We are currently reminded in various ways that “war readiness” (Kriegstüchtigkeit) is an essential characteristic of armed forces. But despite all the difficulties one may have in defining precisely what this means, we must not forget that such an ability does not negate the obligation of these armed forces to focus on peace. In this context, we should remember the concept of Innere Führung (officially translated as “leadership development and civic education”). Because it demands that soldiers act in a morally responsible manner, it is regarded by the Christian churches as a model for European and peace-focused armed forces. Wolf Graf von Baudissin believed that soldiers, as “individuals guided by conscience”, had a responsibility for peace and that the traditional reasons for waging war were no longer valid. Nevertheless, as far back as the early 1950s, he demanded that soldiers be “ready to fight a defensive war” to the greatest possible extent, as this was the only way to prevent wars and remain focused on peace.[33]

The model of just peace is therefore not a paradigm shift – which in academic theory means that adherents of the old paradigm can no longer reach an understanding with those of the new paradigm. Rather, it is a change of perspective which brings into better focus what the idea of just war originally aimed at.[34] It is about credibly implementing the necessary “transformation from the morality of war to the ethics of peace”.[35] Words matter! If you want peace, then you should also talk about peace. In the words of the UNESCO constitution of 1945: “[S]ince wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defences of peace must be constructed.” A focus on peace must therefore continue to be part of the armed forces’ mindset, alongside all of the necessary “war readiness”.

With the Russian attack on Ukraine and the failure to prevent violence, the concept of just peace has not fallen by the wayside. Important elements remain: an orientation toward human rights and the rule of law; a focus on the victims of violence; the naming of human rights violations and war crimes; efforts to overcome violence; the search for constructive conflict management that minimizes violence; cooperation with civil society stakeholders; efforts to engage in dialog and reconciliation work; education about the potential of nationalist ideologies and clichés of supposed ethnic superiority to threaten and destroy peace. All of this does not have to be abandoned now; all of this is still possible, indeed more necessary than ever.

Just peace is a more appropriate expression of Christian thought on the phenomenon of war than just war. But its relevance extends beyond the religious dimension: A consistent focus on the prevention of violence is to a certain extent the response of Christian ethics to developments in modern international law, which is also concerned with preventing violence, so that international law no longer speaks of ius ad bellum – a central element of the doctrine of just war, but one which is considered to be deficient – but instead of ius contra bellum.[36] Just peace therefore does not ignore the realities of war, but rather paves the way out of the aporias into which the doctrine of just war has fallen.


[1] Schmuck, Otto (2020): Motive und Leitbilder der europäischen Einigung. In: Informationen zur politischen Bildung, No. 345 (4/2020): Europäische Union. Bonn, pp. 10-17; Weidenfeld, Werner (62021): Die Europäische Union. Paderborn et al., pp. 19-25.

[2] Assmann, Aleida (2018): Der europäische Traum. Vier Lehren aus der Geschichte. München, pp. 21-29, 83-96.

[3] On this point, cf.: Merkl, Alexander (2018): The European Union and its Values – Normative Guiding Principles or Moral “Fig Leaf”? (accessed October 10, 2023). NB: This European value orientation is not limited to EU membership.

[4] Spieker, Manfred (2022): Zur Debatte der christlichen Friedensethik um den Krieg in der Ukraine: Gerechte Verteidigung. In: Herder-Korrespondenz 76, pp. 47-49.

[5] Schallenberg, Peter (2022): Zwei Schwerter: Gerechter Krieg und gerechter Frieden (= Kirche und Gesellschaft, no. 492), Mönchengladbach; by the same author: Der Krieg in der Ukraine. Anmerkungen aus Sicht der katholischen Friedensethik. %20Krieg%20und%20gerechter%20Frieden_erweitert_06.2022.pdf (accessed November 1, 2023).

[6] Bormann, Franz-Josef (2023): Eine “Zeitenwende” auch für die katholische Friedenslehre? Moraltheologische Überlegungen zum russischen Angriffskrieg auf die Ukraine. In: Theologische Quartalschrift 203, pp. 25-43, 31 f.

[7] Schockenhoff, Eberhard (2018): Kein Ende der Gewalt? Friedensethik für eine globalisierte Welt, Freiburg im Breisgau, p. 284. (Translated from German.)

[8] Scheler, Max (1915): Der Genius des Krieges und der Deutsche Krieg. Leipzig, p. 105. (Translated from German.)

[9] On this point, cf. also: Schockenhoff, Eberhard (2018), see endnote 7, pp. 297-299.

[10] Holzem, Andreas and Leugers, Antonia (2021): Krieg und Frieden in München 1914-1939. Topografie eines Diskurses. Leiden et al., p. 478. (Translated from German.)

[11] Ibid., p. 490.

[12] Ökumenische Versammlung für Gerechtigkeit, Frieden und Bewahrung der Schöpfung Dresden-Magdeburg-Dresden. Edited by Kirchenamt der Evangelischen Kirche in Deutschland (= EKD-Texte, 38). Hannover 1991, p. 32, para. 36. (Translated from German.)

[13] On this point, cf.: Vogt, Markus (2022): The Ukraine War as a Challenge for the Development of Christian Peace Ethics. In: Ethics and Armed Forces. Controversies in Military Ethics & Security Policy. Issue 2022/2 – War in Ukraine: (accessed November 27, 2023).

[14] The German Bishops (2000): A Just peace. Published by the Sekretariat der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz. No. 59. (accessed December 4, 2023).

[15] Werkner, Ines-Jacqueline (32023): Der gerechte Frieden und die ethische (De-)Legitimierung militärischer Gewalt. In: Nina Leonhard and the same author (eds.): Militärsoziologie – Eine Einführung. Wiesbaden, pp. 223-239, p. 228.

[16] The German Bishops (2020): The German bishops in the World War. Statement on the end of the Second World War 75 years ago. Published by the Secretariat of the German Bishops’ Conference (The German Bishops; 107en). Bonn, p. 14. (accessed December 4, 2023).

[17] Ibid., p. 17.

[18] Ibid., p. 22.

[19] The German Bishops (2000), see endnote 14, no. 261.

[20] Pope Francis: Address to members of the UN General Assembly (New York, September 25, 2015). Quoted from: (accessed November 27, 2023).

[21] Pope Francis (2020): Encyclical letter Fratelli tutti of the Holy Father Francis – On Fraternity and Social Friendship. Edited by Sekretariat der Deutschen Bischofskonferenz (= Verlautbarungen des Heiligen Stuhls, 227). Bonn, no. 257.

[22] Pope Francis: Address to the Security Council of the United Nations (June 14, 2023). Quoted from: (accessed November 27, 2023).

[23] Attempts to interpret the pope and his encyclical in this way can be found in: Vogt, Markus (2022), see endnote 13, and Merkl, Alexander (2022): Von “Pacem in terris” bis “Fratelli tutti”, vom “gerechten Krieg” zum “gerechten Frieden”. Eckpunkte des kirchlichen und theologisch-ethischen Nachdenkens über Krieg, Konflikt, Gewalt und Frieden. In: Die Friedensbotschaften der Päpste. Von Paul VI. bis Franziskus. Edited by Alexander Merkl, Patrick Körbs and Bernhard Koch. Freiburg im Breisgau, pp. 37-50, pp. 46-49.

[24] Ecclesia Catholica (1993): Catechism of the Catholic Church, nos. 2308 et seq. (accessed December 4; 2023). Cf. on this point: Elßner, Thomas R. (2023): Von friedensethischen Zeitenwenden und einer Achillesferse. In: Wort und Antwort. Dominikanische Zeitschrift für Glauben und Gesellschaft 64, pp. 74-80.

[25] On the continuities that can be found between Francis and his predecessors, cf.: Ernesti, Jörg (2022): Friedensmacht. Die vatikanische Außenpolitik seit 1870. Freiburg im Breisgau, pp. 224-244.

[27] Pope Francis, see endnote 21, no. 261.

[29] Bundestag-Drucksache 20/5551, February 7, 2023.

[31] (accessed November 1, 2023).

[32] See, for example, his Christmas message on December 25, 2022 at Schloss Bellevue: (accessed Desember 4, 2023).

[33] Freiherr von Rosen, Claus (2011): Die Bedeutung des kriegstüchtigen Soldaten in Baudissins Überlegungen. In: Staack, Michael (ed.): Zur Aktualität des Denkens von Wolf Graf von Baudissin. Baudissin Memorial Lecture. Opladen, pp. 9-26, p. 12 f.

[34] On this point, cf.: Overbeck, Franz-Josef (2024): Konstruktive Konfliktkultur und Friedensethik. In: Konfliktkulturen in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Edited by Markus Thurau (forthcoming); Göbel, Christian (2024): Braucht Religion Konflikt? Vom Einspruch des homo religiosus gegen den homo conflictus. In: Ibid.

[35] Schockenhoff, Eberhard (2018), see endnote 7, p. 319. (Translated from German.)

[36] Hobe, Stephan and Fuhrmann, Johannes (2007): Vom ius in bello zum ius contra bellum: Der Beitrag der Zweiten Haager Friedenskonferenz zur Entwicklung des modernen Völkerrechts. In: Die Friedens-Warte 82, pp. 97-117; Bothe, Michael (52010): Friedenssicherung und Kriegsrecht. In: Völkerrecht. Edited by Wolfgang Graf Vitzthum. Berlin/New York, pp. 639-740; Marxsen, Christian (2021): Völkerrechtsordnung und Völkerrechtsbruch. Theorie und Praxis der Illegalität im ius contra bellum (Jus publicum, 305). Tübingen.


Markus Thurau

Markus Thurau studied Catholic theology, philosophy and sociology at Halle, Berlin, Linz and Innsbruck. He was a research fellow at the Department of Catholic Theology at Freie Universität Berlin, received a doctorate (Dr. phil) from Berlin and a licentiate (Lic. theol) from Innsbruck. Since 2015 he has worked as a Catholic theologian at the Center for Military History and Social Sciences of the Bundeswehr (Zentrum für Militärgeschichte und Sozialwissenschaften der Bundeswehr) in Potsdam. He researches and publishes on Catholicism and modernity, historical peace and conflict studies, religion and violence, Catholic military pastoral care, and the history and theology of Jewish-Christian relations.

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All articles in this issue

Military Ethics and Military Ethics Education: In Search of a “European Approach”
Lonneke Peperkamp, Kevin van Loon, Deane-Peter Baker, David Evered
Just peace despite war? In defense of a criticized concept
Markus Thurau
Russian Invasion of Ukraine. Not a Bit of the Old Ultraviolence
Arseniy Kumankov
Military Ethics Education – Bridging the Gap or Deepening the Chasm?
Dragan Stanar
The Retransformation of Soldiers’ Identities
Patrick Hofstetter
The Army is No Place for a Warrior
Christopher Ankersen
“Try to get more emotion into the classroom”
Deanna Messervey


Roger Mielke Janne Aalto Michaël Dewyn Patrick Mileham Stefan Gugerel Evaggelia Kiosi Mihály Boda Richard Schoonhoven