Peace: the paths of Pope Francis in his message for the 56th World Peace Day
On the 1st of January, the Catholic Church celebrates World Peace Day. Pope Francis invites the people and the nations to put again the word “together” in the center and points out the treasure of humanity in the human fraternity: “for it is together, in fraternity and solidarity, that we build peace, ensure justice and emerge from the greatest disasters”.
“No one can be saved alone. Combating Covid-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace”. This is how Pope Francis has entitled his message for the 56th World Peace Day, in which he seems to be asking us the effort to stop and dare with him an analysis of what has been experienced in the last years, due to the pandemic. “Three years later, the time is right to question”, – he suggests – “(to) learn, grow and allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals and as communities “. What have we learnt? What new paths can we take? From which seeds of life and hope can we start to build a better world?
Pope Francis does not make discounts. “Covid-19 plunged us into a dark night. It destabilized our daily lives, upset our plans and routines, and disrupted the apparent tranquillity of even the most affluent societies. It generated disorientation and suffering and caused the death of great numbers of our brothers and sisters”. And more, it has caused social discomfort, increased poverty and inequalities, the solitude of the poorest and outcasts. In front of this scenario, Pope Francis is certain about one thing: “we can say that the greatest lesson we learned from Covid-19 was the realization that we all need one another. That our greatest and yet most fragile treasure is our shared humanity as brothers and sisters, children of God. And that none of us can be saved alone. Consequently, we urgently need to join together in seeking and promoting the universal values that can guide the growth of this human fraternity”.
The pandemic, the pontiff makes us notice, once again shed light on the positive aspects of humanity: it made many rediscover solidarity, a “a rethinking of certain consumeristic excesses”, the ability of so many people to donate and spend themselves for the common good. From here hence the invitation to put the word “together” in the center: “For it is together, in fraternity and solidarity, that we build peace, ensure justice and emerge from the greatest disasters. Indeed, the most effective responses to the pandemic came from social groups, public and private institutions, and international organizations that put aside their particular interests and joined forces to meet the challenges. Only the peace that comes from a fraternal and disinterested love can help us overcome personal, societal and global crises”. “Even the wars. Although, “the virus of war”, notices the pontiff, “more difficult to overcome than the viruses that compromise our bodies, because it comes, not from outside of us, but from within the human heart”.
So, is there no solution? Do we have to resign to the war in Ukraine and all the other wars? To the armed conflicts and to the human and civil rights violently trampled on, as the media shows us happening, just to name a few examples, in Afghanistan, Myanmar, or Iran? Not exactly. According to the pontiff, the first step consists of coming out of ourselves, from the circle of our interests, and feel part of the human community. “We can no longer think exclusively of carving out space for our personal or national interests; – explains Pope Francis – instead, we must think in terms of the common good, recognizing that we belong to a greater community, and opening our minds and hearts to universal human fraternity. We cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather, the time has come for all of us to endeavour to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common”.
Lastly, to build true and enduring peace, Bergoglio suggests some concrete areas of action as universally viable “paths” to quote the title of his message: reconsider the issue of public health for all; continue to promote peace actions to stop conflicts; care for the Common Home and act to address the climate crisis; combat inequality, work to bring hunger to zero and ensure decent work for all; and develop welcoming and integration policies for migrants and those living on the margins of society. “Only by responding generously to these situations, – Pope Francis concludes – with an altruism inspired by God’s infinite and merciful love, will we be able to build a new world and contribute to the extension of his kingdom, which is a kingdom of love, justice and peace”.