Pope Francis greets UN peacekeepers from Argentina during his general audience in Paul VI hall at the Vatican Dec. 14. In his World Day of Peace message, the Pope calls for a new political order based on peace and non-violence. CNS photo/Paul Haring

Pope’s world peace day message is built on hope

  • December 21, 2016

The annual World Day of Peace message is an occasion that can’t help but highlight the idealism expected from popes.

Pope Francis does exactly that in the 50th annual World Day of Peace message, to be officially released Jan. 1.

Calling for the eradication of nuclear weapons, global disarmament and an end to domestic violence and abuse against women and children, Francis urges a new political order based on peace and non-violence,

“It’s idealistic, but it’s not naive,” said Jesuit Fr. Eduardo Soto Para, a PhD candidate in the Arthur V. Mauro Centre for Peace and Justice of the University of Manitoba. “It’s based on a certain hope — that the Church has to carry on as a sacrament of God in humanity.”

Francis follows in a tradition begun by Pope Paul VI in 1968. Fifty years later, the message from Francis recalls the non-violence of such 20th-century figures as Mahatma Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and Martin Luther King Jr., calling their methods a properly Christian style of politics.

His reference to Protestant, Hindu and Muslim pioneers of non-violence does not appear to be happenstance.

“Peace is an ecumenical concern,” said Soto Para.

And that makes it necessary to engage a broad commitment to support a universal call for peace, said Archdiocese of Toronto Interfaith and Ecumenical Affairs officer Fr. Damian MacPherson.

“Pope Francis is eminently aware that the pursuit of such a goal cannot be a singlehanded initiative,” said MacPherson.

The Pope acknowledges that peace is a challenge, but declares “violence is not the cure for our broken world.”

“In the most local and ordinary situations and in the international order,” he wrote, “may non-violence become the hallmark of our decisions, our relationships and our actions, and indeed of political life in all its forms.”

By reaching out across religious lines, the Pope is also transcending the old just-war theories in his search for a universal ethic of peace, said Soto Para.

“Non-violence is the response of the Christian community to peace,” Soto Para said. “The way which we should deal with that is not anymore about making alliances to justify a just war, but to work towards a non-violent society.”

The Pope’s approach to war and peace is based on lessons from the Second Vatican Council, said Soto Para.

“He doesn’t want to apply criteria built or constructed five centuries ago…. He’s addressing the fact that many people in the world right now are trying to use those kinds of arguments.”

While the approach may seem new, Pope Francis grounds it in the life and teaching of Jesus.

“Jesus Himself lived in violent times,” the Pope writes. “Yet He taught that the true battlefield, where violence and peace meet, is the human heart: for ‘it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come.’ But Christ’s message in this regard offers a radically positive approach. He unfailingly preached God’s unconditional love, which welcomes and forgives. He taught His disciples to love their enemies and to turn the other cheek.”

The Pope’s message will be sent by the Vatican to heads of state around the world.

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