While on the plane home after his three day trip to Kazakhstan, Pope Francis answered questions from journalists. One journalist questioned the pope regarding the sale of weapons to Ukraine. The pope responded that it can be “morally acceptable if done under the conditions of morality.” He said that it was important to reflect “now more than ever on the concept of just war.” He continued: “To defend oneself is not only licit, it’s also an expression of love toward one’s homeland; whoever doesn’t defend something, doesn’t love it. Instead, those who defend, love.”
In his comments on the plane Pope Francis merely reiterated a concept in Catholic moral thought known as Just War Theory. Sometimes people criticize the pope for his statements when they are taken out of context. For example, back in March the pope also made comments concerning just war theory. He stated the following: “Wars are always unjust since it is the people of God who pay. Our hearts cannot but weep before the children and women killed, along with all the victims of war. War is never the way.”
This statement made headlines across several publications. Some wondered if Pope Francis was abandoning Just War Theory. The pope’s recent comments show us that he is not. Instead, we learn that interpreting the pope’s comments takes time and a spirit of good faith. In other words, we give the pope the benefit of the doubt.