My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
This year marks the 50th anniversary of the beginning of World Day of Peace begun by Pope Paul VI. The Holy Father initiated this day of prayer based on the message of St. John XXIII and his Encyclical, “Pacem in Terris” (“Peace on Earth”). It was the wish of John XXIII that peace would be the prayer at the beginning of each New Year. He said, “Peace is the only true direction of human progress.”
The 20th century gave us two world wars and the threat of nuclear disaster. In our present century, the wars in the Middle East and Africa, as well as terrorism in Europe and in the United States all have truly been a legacy of unpeacefulness.
This year’s theme given by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace.” He bases this letter on the Good News preached by Jesus Christ himself. The Good News was that forgiveness and non-violence should mark the lives of Christians. “Jesus himself lived in violent times. 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.’” (Mk 7:21) The teachings of Jesus are not easy to follow. Turn the other cheek. In the Garden of Getshemane, Jesus told Peter to put away the sword, for those who live by the sword will die by the sword.
Nonviolence is not surrender. Rather it is appropriate action that disarms those who would harm others. The Holy Father cited the example of great people of peace. He begins with St. Teresa of Calcutta who was a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in bringing peace between the various religions in India as well as her work among the poor.
Pope Francis also mentions Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Kahan, both of whom were known for bringing nonviolence to India. In addition, he speaks of a man of our own time and country, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who combated racial discrimination by the use of nonviolence. Non-violence is a Christian response to the evil around us.
Pope Francis makes it clear that violence has its source in the human heart and that, unfortunately, nonviolence must be practiced before all else in families and in individuals. We cannot expect the world to be at peace if we ourselves are not at peace. The Holy Father invites the world to seek ways of peace by saying, “Peacebuilding through active nonviolence is the natural and necessary complement to the Church’s continuing efforts to limit the use of force by the application or moral norms.”
I invite you to read the complete message of Pope Francis on this 50th anniversary of World Day of Peace by visiting the Vatican website at www.vatican.va.
He asks us to put out into the deep waters of peacemaking, especially by the use of prayer. The Holy Father ends his 2017 message by saying, “Nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer. Everyone can be an artisan of peace.”
How true it is that peace is an art. This is the appeal that Pope Francis made at the World Day of Prayer in Assisi this past September. Mary, Mother of God, whose feast we celebrated on Jan. 1, is the Queen of Peace who will bring our prayers to the Divine Savior.