My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
For just over 50 years, the Roman Pontiffs have issued a World Day of Peace Message on the first of January. This year’s message is entitled “Peace as a Journey of Hope: Dialogue, Reconciliation and Ecological Conversion.” This letter of our Holy Father, Pope Francis, follows his apostolic journey to Japan, where he made key statements regarding nuclear disarmament at the site of Hiroshima where the first nuclear bomb was dropped during World War II. Survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki were among those whom the Holy Father visited. Some elderly survivors still remember the horrors of that day and the mass destruction of those two cities where most of the Christians in Japan at that time lived.
In his message, the Holy Father reminds us of the real impossibility of conducting an arms race, while at the same time promising disarmament. One cannot follow upon the other. Nuclear détente is not a situation of peace. Pope Francis tells us that “peace is a journey of reconciliation in fraternal communion.” Reconciliation is part and parcel of our Christian message. First, we are reconciled with God, and then we must be reconciled with one another. Not only individuals but also nations must take part in this important work of bringing people together again. Reconciliation is a word that means that we can face one another, eyebrow to eyebrow. “Cilia” is a Latin word from which reconciliation is derived. Unless we face one another, recognize our own faults, and forgive the other, as individuals, we cannot make a journey toward peace. And neither can nations do so.
The Holy Father also reminds us that there is a certain need today of ecological conversation. He tells us, “The journey of reconciliation also calls for listening and contemplation of the world that God has given us as a gift to make our common home. Indeed, natural resources, the many forms of life and the earth itself have been entrusted to us to ‘till and keep’ (Gen 1:15), also for future generations, through the responsible and active participation of everyone.” Unfortunately, the controversies of today regarding belief in climate change or climate destruction seem to be something that is optional. It is a matter of belief and not a matter of science. As believers, we must look for vital evidence on which to base our religious belief. The scientific method, however, teaches us that we must truly look at the facts regarding climate change and make every effort to preserve the environment, which is our common home.
There is much to be accomplished internationally, and personally, in this coming year, so that we recognize that we journey in hope. We put out into the deep each January 1st as we begin a new calendar year. Our life in our Christian faith calls us to be reconciled with one another, with God and also with the earth.