Pope Francis on World Day of Peace: The world needs peacemakers open to dialogue, forgiveness

Pope Francis waves in St Peters Square May 8 2019. (Catholic News Agency file photo by Lucia Ballester)

By Courtney Mares, Catholic News Agency

[Vatican City – CNA] – Pope Francis’ message for the 2020 World Day of Peace released on Dec. 12, 2019 calls for openness to dialogue, commitment to forgiveness, and an ecological conversion.

“The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation,” Pope Francis says in his peace message for Jan. 1, 2020, the World Day of Peace.

“We cannot truly achieve peace without a convinced dialogue between men and women who seek the truth beyond ideologies and differing opinions. Peace must be built up continually; it is a journey made together in constant pursuit of the common good, truthfulness and respect for law,” he says.

Pope Francis says that war often begins with “the inability to accept the diversity of others,” which fosters attitudes of “domination born of selfishness and pride.”

“War is fueled by a perversion of relationships, by hegemonic ambitions, by abuses of power, by fear of others and by seeing diversity as an obstacle. And these, in turn, are aggravated by the experience of war,” he says.

He notes that entire nations have struggled to “break free of the chains of exploitation and corruption that fuel hatred and violence.”

“Our human community bears, in its memory and its flesh, the scars of ever more devastating wars and conflicts that affect especially the poor and the vulnerable,” the pope says.

In his message, Pope Francis recalls his meeting with survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki on his recent apostolic journey to Japan. He says that their testimony bears witness to succeeding generations of the unspeakable suffering and horror caused by the bombings.

The pope reiterates his message that nuclear deterrence can only produce “the illusion of security.”

“We cannot claim to maintain stability in the world through the fear of annihilation, in a volatile situation, suspended on the brink of a nuclear abyss and enclosed behind walls of indifference,” he says.

Pope Francis says that the answer to breaking today’s unhealthy mentality of threats and fear is to pursue “a genuine fraternity based on our common origin from God” through dialogue and mutual trust.

Only by choosing “the path of respect can we break the spiral of vengeance,” he says, underlining the importance of forgiveness by quoting Christ’s command to forgive not “seven times, but seventy times seven.”

“This path of reconciliation is a summons to discover in the depths of our heart the power of forgiveness and the capacity to acknowledge one another as brothers and sisters. When we learn to live in forgiveness, we grow in our capacity to become men and women of peace,” he says.

For Catholic Christians, confession is a part of the peace process because it “renews individuals and communities” and “bids us to keep our gaze fixed on Jesus, who reconciled all things … by making peace through the blood of his cross,” the Holy Father says.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation “requires us to set aside every act of violence in thought, word and deed, whether against our neighbours or against God’s creation,” he says.

The World Day of Peace – instituted by St. Paul VI in 1968 – is celebrated each year on the first day of January. The pope provides a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world.

The pope’s message for the 2020 World Day of Peace is entitled, Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion.”

“The ecological conversion for which we are appealing will lead us to a new way of looking at life, as we consider the generosity of the Creator who has given us the earth and called us to a share it in joy and moderation,” Pope Francis says.

“All this gives us deeper motivation and a new way to dwell in our common home, to accept our differences, to respect and celebrate the life that we have received and share, and to seek living conditions and models of society that favour the continued flourishing of life and the development of the common good of the entire human family,” he says.

At a Dec. 12 press conference on the peace message, Cardinal Peter Turkson, prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, said faith in God’s covenant implies care for the weakest members of society and for the environment as God’s creation.

In his peace message, Pope Francis says that democracy can be an important paradigm for the peace process, provided that it is “grounded in justice and a commitment to protect the rights of every person, especially the weak and marginalized.”

“Setting out on a journey of peace is a challenge made all the more complex because the interests at stake in relationships between people, communities and nations, are numerous and conflicting. We must first appeal to people’s moral conscience and to personal and political will,” he says.

“The desire for peace lies deep within the human heart, and we should not resign ourselves to seeking anything less than this,” Pope Francis says.

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