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Catholic peace traditions

Catholic peace traditions begin with its biblical and classical origins to the current practice in the 21st century. Because of its long history and breadth of geographical and cultural diversity, this Catholic tradition encompasses many strains and influences of both religious and secular peacemaking and many aspects of Christian pacifism, just war and nonviolence.

Catholic tradition as a whole supports and favors peacemaking efforts. Peacemaking is an integral part of Catholic Social Teaching.

The history of peacemaking in the Catholic tradition reflects the religious meanings of peace, tied to positive virtues, such as love, and to the personal and social works of justice. The Greek word for peace is eirene; Roman pax, and in the Hebrew Bible, shalom.

For the earliest Romans, "pax" meant to live in a state of agreement, where discord and war were absent. In his Meditations, or To Himself, the Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius expresses peace as a state of unperturbed tranquility. The English word "peace" derives ultimately from its root, the Latin "pax".

Shalom (Hebrew: שלום‎‎) is the word for peace in the Hebrew Bible (Tanakh or Hebrew: תנ"ך‎‎), and has other meanings also pertaining to well being, including use as a greeting.

The Greek meaning for peace, contained in the word eirene, evolved over the course of Greco-Roman civilization from such agricultural meanings as prosperity, fertility, and security of home contained in Hesiod’s Works and Days, to more internal meanings of peace formulated by the Stoics, such as Epictetus.

Eirene is the word that the New Testament generally uses for peace, one of the twenty words used by the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Bible used in the largely Greek-speaking Jewish communities throughout the Greco-Roman world. It is chiefly through the Septuagint’s use of Greek that the Greek word eirene became infused with all the religious imagery and richness of the word shalom in the Hebrew Bible that had evolved over the history of the Jewish people. Subsequently, the use of the Greek Bible as the basis for St. Jerome’s Vulgate translation into Latin then brought all the new meanings of eirene to the Latin word pax and transformed it from a term for an imposed order of the sword, the Pax Romana, into the chief image of peace for Western Christianity.



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