[JURIST] Pope Benedict XVI [official profile] on Tuesday said that countries have a duty to respect international humanitarian law [ICRC materials] "even in the midst of war." In the Pope's peace message [text], released in advance of the Catholic church's World Day of Peace, he also called for international humanitarian standards to be considered universally binding and suggested that standards should be brought up to date with current armed conflicts:
The truth of peace must also let its beneficial light shine even amid the tragedy of war. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, pointed out that "not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced".(7) As a means of limiting the devastating consequences of war as much as possible, especially for civilians, the international community has created an international humanitarian law. In a variety of situations and in different settings, the Holy See has expressed its support for this humanitarian law, and has called for it to be respected and promptly implemented, out of the conviction that the truth of peace exists even in the midst of war. International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace. Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples. Its value must be appreciated and its correct application ensured; it must also be brought up to date by precise norms applicable to the changing scenarios of today's armed conflicts and the use of ever newer and more sophisticated weapons.A Vatican official said Tuesday that the Pope's message was meant to apply to all wars, including the one in Iraq. The Pope also called for worldwide nuclear disarmament and strongly condemned terrorism. Reuters has more.