“The world must be educated to love Peace, to build it up and defend it.”
Pope Paul VI, 1968
In 1967, Pope Paul VI established a special feast day dedicated to universal peace. Each year, on January 1, the Pope offers a declaration that articulates important and relevant social doctrine for our day. This World Day of Peace Message addresses issues that resonate with specific struggles of our time—imminent crisis in the lives of people throughout the world.
With classic prophetic insight, we are challenged to see what we want to ignore. We are invited to enter into the struggle that pollutes our lives and threatens our humanity, today.
Historically, issues addressed in the World Day of Peace Message include themes of human dignity and common good in society. Grounded in a deep knowledge and commitment that every facet of our life intersects with our faith, the World Day of Peace Message calls us to open our hearts and minds to God’s love and mercy—both personally and collectively. We are guided on both a political and pastoral level, as we confront the issues in our life that are barriers to peace.
The World Day of Peace Message is an opportunity to re-center our lives and hearts—to identify that which is broken in our world community, and actively work to repair, reconcile, and rebuild.
In the World Day of Peace Message on January 1, 2019, Pope Francis calls us to embrace a deep conversion in our public dialogue and civic life. In his message “Good politics is at the service of peace,” Pope Francis compels us to understand that “Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in mutual responsibility and interdependence of human beings.”
Pope Francis encourages us: Political responsibility belongs to all citizens. Every person has an obligation to engage in dialogue and action to safeguard the ultimate dignity of every person. When “one out of every six children in our world is affected by the violence of war or its effects,” how do we stand up against corruption, fear, oppression or dishonesty? “When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals,” how do we change the politics to foster trust and work together for the common good?
Pope Francis compels everyone to be engaged in the work of advocating for and with those whose voices are marginalized. He encourages us to work to ensure the protection and fulfillment of the most vulnerable. “If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed become an outstanding form of charity.”
“Good politics is at the service of peace. It respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.”
“Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.” This collaborative commitment and participation builds trust, removes fear and rejects isolation. “Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization and even destruction.”
Ultimately, Pope Francis states this “great political project” of peace “entails a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects: peace with oneself…; peace with others…’ peace with all creation.” This New Year, let us commit to clothe ourselves with our Lord’s peace, and enter into the fray of political life—armed with God’s love, and embolden with God’s promise of forgiveness.