The New Testament directly does not urge or give a command to take part in the war. To what extent is the war, as a phenomenon, acceptable for Christianity?
Participation in the war for justice and defense was considered permissible from the early Christian era. The church rules outlined the release of a Christian soldier, who killed a man in the war, from the accusations of murder. For him, however, the period of three years has been ordered for repentance, self-purification to approach Holy Communion.
The Church’s position is also evident through the establishment of the feast of the military saints and its substantiation by the New Testament events. Christ commended the centurion for the great faith (Matthew 8:10, Luke 7:9), Cornelius the centurion became worthy to a vision from God, and then received the Holy Spirit with his family (Acts 10:18, 30-33, 44, 47-48).
In the Catholic Church, the war had a positive tinge and character. Augustine and Ambrose established the doctrine of the “righteous war”, whereas, in the Eastern patrological tradition, the war was generally qualified not positively. In the Orthodoxy, only Russian religious philosophers in the 19th and 20th centuries published ideas about the war’s justification, and in the 21st century, the Russian Orthodox Church incorporated the notion of “just war” on the basis of its Social Concept, following the Catholic Church and even referring to Augustine.
The idea of a just war is based on Christ’s words: “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword” (Matthew 26:52). According to this idea, it is necessary to wage war or declare a war for the reestablishment of justice and peace after all means of solving problems peacefully.
The concept of the just war, however, has been quite exploited by the Catholic Church in organizing and exercising Crusades, as well as the persecutions of the Jews. In fact, the Catholic Church, interpreting its teaching on war according to its material and totalitarian interests, caused bloodshed and wars.
In the new era, the Catholic Church, referring to the shameful pages of its history, apologized for its activities that were unacceptable from Christian point of view.
John Paul II has publicly apologized for the Inquisition of the Catholic Church, the Crusades, as well as for the tolerant attitude towards fascism and for not to struggle against it by all means.
To further clarify the official Vatican’s apology and the position of the acceptance of the past mistakes of the Catholic Church, in 2000 on March 12, at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Vatican, the Pope John Paul II offered a liturgy during which the Catholic high-ranking clergy by the pardon explicated the committed sins: intolerance and violence against dissidents, organization of religious wars and crusades, violence and cruelty by the Inquisition, a violation of the Christian unity, persecutions against the Jews, sins against the rights of peoples with the disrespectful attitude towards other cultures and religions, sins against human dignity, women, certain racial and ethnic groups, against the rights of person and social justice.
In these apologies we can also understand the actions of the Catholic Church against the Armenian Apostolic Church and the Armenian people in order to impose their doctrines on the Armenian Church, to create movements for spreading the domination of the Catholic Church and to make a bargain to adopt the Catholic belief as the only condition to help the Armenian people in the difficult and anguish times.
John Paul II voiced this perception perhaps in a more apparent way when he was in Armenia on a fraternal visit at the invitation of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II on the occasion of the 1700th anniversary of the adoption of Christianity as a state religion in Armenia. During the liturgy on the open altar of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin on September 26, Pope John Paul II said in his speech: “From this altar, which is your altar, I ask the Lord to forgive us for our past mistakes against the unity and lead us to the love which overcomes all obstacles.”
On different occasions present Pope Francis also apologized for the past mistakes of the Catholic Church. It was really a big step done by the Catholic Church to make a public apology for the historic mistakes made by servants of that Church.
From the example of the Catholic Church, we see how the idea of the just war was speculated. Today, too, different countries can speculate the idea of the just war in the geopolitical interest with the motto of defending the population, living not only within these countries but also in foreign countries, from violence and dictatorship, under the pretext to establish justice or peace.
Therefore, the Church should consider the existing problem thoroughly before promoting a view on any military action.