Today, Pope Francis met with the diplomatic corps of the Holy See and took the opportunity to dedicate his remarks to the theme of “security and peace,” as he described it. He explained, “In today’s climate of general apprehension for the present, and uncertainty and anxious concern for the future, I feel it is important to speak a word of hope, which can also indicate a path on which to embark.”
The tenor of Pope Francis’s remarks echoed his powerful statement on the occasion of the World Day of Peace in which he advocated for nonviolence and peacemaking. In today’s address, he aligned himself with his predecessor Pope Blessed Paul VI, whose own World Day of Peace address in 1972 included the famous line: “If you want peace, work for justice.” Indeed, justice is central to the effort to bring about true and lasting peace. Pope Francis acknowledged that much of the religiously motivated violence in the world is tied to both material and spiritual poverty.
Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty. It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders. The former are charged with transmitting those religious values which do not separate fear of God from love of neighbour. The latter are charged with guaranteeing in the public forum the right to religious freedom, while acknowledging religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society that sees no opposition between social belonging, sanctioned by the principle of citizenship, and the spiritual dimension of life. Government leaders are also responsible for ensuring that conditions do not exist that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism. This calls for suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty; such policies cannot prescind from a clear appreciation of the importance of the family as the privileged place for growth in human maturity, and from a major investment in the areas of education and culture.
Pope Francis continues, in great detail, to survey many of the instances in which violence and injustice continue to persist around the world. The full text of his address is certainly worth reading, but too lengthy to quote here in whole.
I will just point to one additional highlight that Pope Francis mentions near the conclusion of his address, and that is the connection between world violence and environmental degradation in our quest for peace.
To build peace also means to work actively for the care of creation. The Paris Agreement on the climate, which recently took effect, is an important sign of the shared commitment to bequeath a more beautiful and livable world to those who will come after us. It is my hope that the efforts made in recent times to respond to climate change will meet with increased cooperation on the part of all, for the earth is our common home and we need to realize that the choices of each have consequences for all.
Finally, Pope Francis notes that, “Peace is a gift, a challenge and a commitment. It is a gift because it flows from the very heart of God. It is a challenge because it is a good that can never be taken for granted and must constantly be achieved. It is a commitment because it demands passionate effort on the part of all people of goodwill to seek and build it.”
May we take to heart his words, his encouragement and exhortation, to seek peace, recognizing always this gift, challenge, and commitment.