CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 17 August 2019

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Peace is for the good of all 
or the good of none

VATICAN (SE): While competing for the longest list of blocks to peace ever included in any papal statement, Pope Francis has documented what he sees as being the major hurdles to peace in our world in the preamble to his Message for World Peace Day, 1 January 2014.

In an impassioned appeal for a move beyond international agreements, he calls for a change of heart, a conversion in the human approach to disarmament and the creation of a new form of world fraternity.

In calling for a conversion of heart, he points out that everyone can experience conversion. 

“They must never despair of being able to change their lives,” he says. “I wish this message of hope and confidence for all, even for those who have committed brutal crimes, for God does not wish the death of a sinner, but that he converts and lives.”

Pope Francis stresses that the lack of peace in the world today is causing untold suffering for millions of people. He speaks of those on the receiving end of crime, who are robbed of what is rightfully theirs through criminal gangs, both local and international, street and white-collar crime.

To this list he adds the innocent who are imprisoned within the violence of war, who lose their loved ones, their health and their livelihood, as well as their homes and the right to speak and move freely and without fear.

He says it is for this reason that the Church speaks.

“The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights,” he says.

“For this reason, I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms,” he appeals.

“As long as so great a quantity of arms are in circulation as at present, new pretexts can always be found for initiating hostilities,” he points out.

He then points to international agreements and laws as being inadequate on their own.

“International agreements and national laws—while necessary and greatly to be desired—are not of themselves sufficient to protect humanity from the risk of armed conflict,” he says.

“A conversion of hearts is needed which would permit everyone to recognise in the other a brother or sister to care for,” he stressed, in spelling out his bottom line.

However, the pope does not see change of heart as something static, but rather as a process, which is a continuing revolution and sensitising of the heart. A process that continues throughout a lifetime.

Pope Francis then points to a tension in the world today between the desire for fraternity on the one hand and an ever increasing social selfishness on the other.

He describes the call to fraternity as inherent in human nature, but then cites the story of Cain and Abel, saying that it also has a tragic capacity to betray its own most fundamental desire.

He stresses that it is the fatherhood of God that binds people together, saying it is the only effective way to generate strong fraternal bonds among people.

The pope notes that he believes that it is within the family where people learn to form these bonds, as the lesson of fraternity begins at home. 

But he argues that this fraternity of the home must extend to the international arena and be the hallmark of relationships among nations.

He quotes Pope Benedict XVI as saying that while globalisation may have made us all neighbours, it has not made us brothers and sisters, and that this is further aggravated by new ideologies which promote individualism, egocentrism and consumerism, all of which put us in opposition with our neighbour, rather than bringing us closer.

Pope Francis also picks up another topic from his predecessor, what he terms a profound poverty of relationships that he sees as increasingly spreading in most societies. He cites the lack of solid family and community relationships as its cause.

Successive popes have dwelt on the importance of strong relationships binding both families and societies together. Pope John Paul II spoke of them as the most fundamental element of peace, Pope Benedict called them critical to religious freedom and Pope Francis places them in the context of poverty alleviation.

He speaks of the relational poverty of modern societies, which results in the isolation of people, resulting in an inability to cope with societal dynamics and, consequently, becoming a cause of physical poverty as well.

He also points out that it prompts the temptation to seek fulfillment in the material, leading to exploitation and waste.

He calls for a willingness to live simply and share wealth, which he says promotes fraternal communion among others.

“The progressive distancing of man from God and from neighbour, in the greedy pursuit of material goods on the one hand, and the impoverishment of interpersonal and community relations on the other—have pushed man to seek satisfaction, happiness and security in consumption and earnings out of all proportion to the principles of a sound economy,” he points out.

He says that in these ways the peace is disrupted, as an essential element of peace lies in the ability of individuals, families and indeed the whole of societies to pull together and, internationally, form a communion of nations to work for the common good of all.


“Peace is either for the good of all or the good of none,” he points out, adding that it can only be truly attained if all commit themselves to a firm determination to commit themselves to the common good.

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