"Do Not Be Overcome by Evil but Overcome Evil With
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is John Paul II's Message for the World Day of Peace, to be observed Jan. 1. The Vatican press office released it today.
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Message of the Holy Father John Paul II for the 2005 World Day of Peace January 1, 2005
Do Not Be Overcome by Evil, but Overcome Evil With Good
1. At the beginning of the New Year, I once again address the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will, who recognize the need to build peace in the world. For the theme of this 2005 World Day of Peace I have chosen Saint Paul's words in the Letter to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil.
The great Apostle brings out a fundamental truth: peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil is defeated by good. If we consider the tragic scenario of violent fratricidal conflicts in different parts of the world, and the untold sufferings and injustices to which they have given rise, the only truly constructive choice is, as Saint Paul proposes, to flee what is evil and hold fast to what is good (cf. Romans 12:9).
Peace is a good to be promoted with good: it is a
for individuals, for families, for nations and for all humanity; yet it
is one which needs to be maintained and fostered by decisions and
inspired by good. We can appreciate the profound truth of another
of Saint Paul: "Repay no one evil for evil" (Romans 12:17). The one way
out of the vicious circle of requiting evil for evil is to accept the
words: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good"
Evil, good and love
2. From the beginning, humanity has known the tragedy of evil and has struggled to grasp its roots and to explain its causes. Evil is not some impersonal, deterministic force at work in the world. It is the result of human freedom. Freedom, which distinguishes human beings from every other creature on earth, is ever present at the heart of the drama of evil. Evil always has a name and a face: the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it. Sacred Scripture teaches that at the dawn of history Adam and Eve rebelled against God, and Abel was killed by Cain, his brother (cf. Genesis 3-4). These were the first wrong choices, which were succeeded by countless others down the centuries. Each of these choices has an intrinsic moral dimension, involving specific individual responsibilities and the fundamental relationship of each person with God, with others and with all of creation.
At its deepest level, evil is a tragic rejection of
demands of love.(1) Moral good, on the other hand, is born of love,
itself as love and is directed towards love. All this is particularly
to Christians, who know that their membership in the one mystical Body
of Christ sets them in a particular relationship not only with the Lord
but also with their brothers and sisters. The inner logic of Christian
love, which in the Gospel is the living source of moral goodness, leads
even to the love of one's enemies: "If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink" (Romans 12:20).
The "grammar" of the universal moral law
3. If we look to the present state of the world, we cannot help but note the disturbing spread of various social and political manifestations of evil: from social disorders to anarchy and war, from injustice to acts of violence and killing. To steer a path between the conflicting claims of good and evil, the human family urgently needs to preserve and esteem that common patrimony of moral values bestowed by God himself. For this reason, Saint Paul encourages all those determined to overcome evil with good to be noble and disinterested in fostering generosity and peace (cf. Romans 12:17-21).
Ten years ago, in addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations about the need for common commitment to the service of peace, I made reference to the "grammar" of the universal moral law,(2) to which the Church appeals in her various pronouncements in this area. By inspiring common values and principles, this law unites human beings, despite their different cultures, and is itself unchanging: "it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. ... Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies."(3)
4. This common grammar of the moral law requires ever greater commitment and responsibility in ensuring that the life of individuals and of peoples is respected and advanced. In this light, the evils of a social and political nature which afflict the world, particularly those provoked by outbreaks of violence, are to be vigorously condemned. I think immediately of the beloved continent of Africa, where conflicts which have already claimed millions of victims are still continuing. Or the dangerous situation of Palestine, the Land of Jesus, where the fabric of mutual understanding, torn by a conflict which is fed daily by acts of violence and reprisal, cannot yet be mended in justice and truth. And what of the troubling phenomenon of terrorist violence, which appears to be driving the whole world towards a future of fear and anguish? Finally, how can we not think with profound regret of the drama unfolding in Iraq, which has given rise to tragic situations of uncertainty and insecurity for all?
To attain the good of peace there must be a clear
conscious acknowledgment that violence is an unacceptable evil and that
it never solves problems. "Violence is a lie, for it goes against the
of our faith, the truth of our humanity. Violence destroys what it
to defend: the dignity, the life, the freedom of human beings."(4) What
is needed is a great effort to form consciences and to educate the
generation to goodness by upholding that integral and fraternal
which the Church proclaims and promotes. This is the foundation for a
economic and political order respectful of the dignity, freedom and
rights of each person.
The good of peace and the common good
5. Fostering peace by overcoming evil with good requires careful reflection on the common good(5) and on its social and political implications. When the common good is promoted at every level, peace is promoted. Can an individual find complete fulfillment without taking account of his social nature, that is, his being "with" and "for" others? The common good closely concerns him. It closely concerns every _expression of his social nature: the family, groups, associations, cities, regions, states, the community of peoples and nations. Each person, in some way, is called to work for the common good, constantly looking out for the good of others as if it were his own. This responsibility belongs in a particular way to political authorities at every level, since they are called to create that sum of social conditions which permit and foster in human beings the integral development of their person.(6)
The common good therefore demands respect for and the integral promotion of the person and his fundamental rights, as well as respect for and the promotion of the rights of nations on the universal plane. In this regard, the Second Vatican Council observed that "the increasingly close interdependence gradually encompassing the entire world is leading to an increasingly universal common good ... and this involves rights and duties with respect to the whole human race. Every social group must take account of the needs and legitimate aspirations of other groups and the common good of the entire human family."(7) The good of humanity as a whole, including future generations, calls for true international cooperation, to which every nation must offer its contribution.(8)
Certain reductive visions of humanity tend to
the common good as a purely socio-economic state of well-being lacking
any transcendent purpose, thus emptying it of its deepest meaning. Yet
the common good has a transcendent dimension, for God is the ultimate
of all his creatures.(9) Christians know that Jesus has shed full light
on how the true common good of humanity is to be achieved. History
towards Christ and in him finds its culmination: because of Christ,
Christ and for Christ, every human reality can be led to complete
The good of peace and the use of the world's goods
6. Since the good of peace is closely linked to the development of all peoples, the ethical requirements for the use of the earth's goods must always be taken into account. The Second Vatican Council rightly recalled that "God intended the earth and all it contains for the use of everyone and of all peoples; so that the good things of creation should be available equally to all, with justice as guide and charity in attendance."(10) As a member of the human family, each person becomes as it were a citizen of the world, with consequent duties and rights, since all human beings are united by a common origin and the same supreme destiny. By the mere fact of being conceived, a child is entitled to rights and deserving of care and attention; and someone has the duty to provide these. The condemnation of racism, the protection of minors, the provision of aid to displaced persons and refugees, and the mobilization of international solidarity towards all the needy are nothing other than consistent applications of the principle of world citizenship.
7. The good of peace should be seen today as closely related to the new goods derived from progress in science and technology. These too, in application of the principle of the universal destination of the earth's goods, need to be put at the service of humanity's basic needs. Appropriate initiatives on the international level can give full practical implementation to the principle of the universal destination of goods by guaranteeing to all — individuals and nations — the basic conditions for sharing in development. This becomes possible once the barriers and monopolies that marginalize many peoples are removed.(11)
The good of peace will be better ensured if the international community takes on greater responsibility for what are commonly called public goods. These are goods which all citizens automatically enjoy, without having consciously chosen them or contributed to them in any way. Such is the case, for example, at the national level, with such goods as the judiciary system, the defense system and the network of highways and railways. In our world the phenomenon of increased globalization means that more and more public goods are taking on a global character, and as a result common interests are daily increasing. We need but think of the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace and security, concern for climate change and disease control. The international community needs to respond to these interests with a broader network of juridical accords aimed at regulating the use of public goods and inspired by universal principles of fairness and solidarity.
8. The principle of the universal destination of goods can also make possible a more effective approach to the challenge of poverty, particularly when we consider the extreme poverty in which millions of people are still living. The international community, at the beginning of the new millennium, set the priority of halving their number by the year 2015. The Church supports and encourages this commitment and invites all who believe in Christ to show, practically and in every sector, a preferential love for the poor.(12)
The tragedy of poverty remains closely linked to the issue of the foreign debt of poor countries. Despite significant progress in this area, the problem has not yet been adequately resolved. Fifteen years ago I called public attention to the fact that the foreign debt of poor countries "is closely related to a series of other problems such as foreign investment, the proper functioning of the major international organizations, the price of raw materials and so forth."(13) Recent moves in favor of debt reduction, centered mainly on the needs of the poor, have certainly improved the quality of economic growth. Yet, because of a number of factors, this growth is still quantitatively insufficient, especially in relation to the millennium goals. Poor countries remain trapped in a vicious circle: low income and weak growth limit savings and, in turn, weak investments and an inefficient use of savings do not favor growth.
9. As Pope Paul VI stated and as I myself have reaffirmed, the only really effective means of enabling States to deal with the grave problem of poverty is to provide them with the necessary resources through foreign financial aid -- public and private -- granted under reasonable conditions, within the framework of international commercial relations regulated with fairness.(14) What is urgently needed is a moral and economic mobilization, one which respects agreements already made in favor of poor countries, and is at the same time prepared to review those agreements which have proved excessively burdensome for some countries. In this regard, new impulse should be given to Public Aid for Development, and new forms of financing for development should be explored, whatever the difficulties entailed.(15) Some governments are already looking carefully at promising mechanisms for this; these significant initiatives should be carried out in a spirit of authentic sharing, with respect for the principle of subsidiarity. The management of financial resources destined to the development of poor countries should also entail scrupulous adherence, on the part of both donors and recipients, to sound administrative practices. The Church encourages and contributes to these efforts. One need only mention the significant contribution made by the many Catholic agencies dedicated to aid and development.
10. At the end of the Great Jubilee of the year 2000, in my Apostolic Letter "Novo Millennio Ineunte," I spoke of the urgent need for a new creativity in charity,(16) in order to spread the Gospel of hope in the world. This need is clearly seen when we consider the many difficult problems standing in the way of development in Africa: numerous armed conflicts, pandemic diseases aggravated by extreme poverty, and political instability leading to widespread insecurity. These are tragic situations which call for a radically new direction for Africa: there is a need to create new forms of solidarity, at bilateral and multilateral levels, through a more decisive commitment on the part of all, with complete conviction that the well-being of the peoples of Africa is an indispensable condition for the attainment of the universal common good.
May the peoples of Africa become the protagonists of
own future and their own cultural, civil, social and economic
May Africa cease to be a mere recipient of aid, and become a
agent of convinced and productive sharing! Achieving this goal calls
a new political culture, especially in the area of international
Once again I wish to state that failure to honor the repeated promises
of Public Aid for Development, the still unresolved question of the
foreign debt of African countries and the failure to give those
special consideration in international commercial relations, represent
grave obstacles to peace which urgently need to be addressed and
Today more than ever, a decisive condition for bringing peace to the
is an acknowledgement of the interdependence between wealthy and poor
such that "development either becomes shared in common by every part of
the world or it undergoes a process of regression even in zones marked
by constant progress."(17)
The universality of evil and Christian hope
11. Faced with the many tragic situations present in the world, Christians confess with humble trust that God alone can enable individuals and peoples to overcome evil and achieve good. By his death and resurrection, Christ has redeemed us and ransomed us "with a price" (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23), gaining salvation for all. With his help, everyone can defeat evil with good.
Based on the certainty that evil will not prevail, Christians nourish an invincible hope which sustains their efforts to promote justice and peace. Despite the personal and social sins which mark all human activity, hope constantly gives new impulse to the commitment to justice and peace, as well as firm confidence in the possibility of building a better world.
Although the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Thessalonians 2:7) is present and active in the world, we must not forget that redeemed humanity is capable of resisting it. Each believer, created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ, "who in a certain way has united himself to each human being,"(18) can cooperate in the triumph of good. The work of "the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth" (cf. Wisdom 1:7). Christians, especially the lay faithful, "should not, then, hide their hope in the depth of their hearts, but rather express it through the structures of their secular lives in continual conversion and in wrestling ‘against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of iniquity' (Ephesians 6:12)."(19)
12. No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love. When good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails. This is the teaching of the Gospel, restated by the Second Vatican Council: "the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love."(20)
The same is true in the social and political spheres. In this regard, Pope Leo XIII wrote that those charged with preserving peace in relations between peoples should foster in themselves and kindle in others "charity, the mistress and queen of all the virtues."(21) Christians must be convinced witnesses of this truth. They should show by their lives that love is the only force capable of bringing fulfillment to persons and societies, the only force capable of directing the course of history in the way of goodness and peace.
During this year dedicated to the Eucharist, may the sons and daughters of the Church find in the supreme sacrament of love the wellspring of all communion: communion with Jesus the Redeemer and, in him, with every human being. By Christ's death and resurrection, made sacramentally present in each Eucharistic celebration, we are saved from evil and enabled to do good. Through the new life which Christ has bestowed on us, we can recognize one another as brothers and sisters, despite every difference of language, nationality and culture. In a word, by sharing in the one bread and the one cup, we come to realize that we are "God's family" and that together we can make our own effective contribution to building a world based on the values of justice, freedom and peace.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2004.
JOHN PAUL II
(1) In this regard, Saint Augustine observed that "two loves have established two cities: love of self, carried to contempt for God, has given rise to the earthly city; love of God, carried to contempt for self, has given rise to the heavenly city" ("De Civitate Dei," XIV:28).
(2) Cf. Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations for its Fiftieth Anniversary (5 October 1995), 3: Insegnamenti XVIII/2 (1995), 732.
(3) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1958.
(4) John Paul II, Homily at Drogheda, Ireland (29 September 1979), 9: AAS 71 (1979), 1081.
(5) The common good is widely understood to be "the sum of those conditions of social life which enable groups and individuals to achieve their fulfillment more completely and readily." Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," 26.
(6) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter "Mater et Magistra": AAS 53 (1961), 417.
(7) Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," 26.
(8) Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter "Mater et Magistra": AAS 53 (1961), 421.
(9) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus," 41: AAS 83 (1991), 844.
(10) Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," 69.
(11) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus," 35: AAS 83 (1991), 837.
(12) Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," 42: AAS 80 (1988), 572.
(13) Address to Participants in the Study Week of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences (27 October 1989), 6: Insegnamenti XII/2 (1989), 1050.
(14) Cf. Paul VI, Encyclical Letter "Populorum Progressio," 56-61: AAS 59 (1967), 285-287; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," 33-34: AAS 80 (1988), 557-560.
(15) Cf. John Paul II, Message to the President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace: L'Osservatore Romano, 10 July 2004, p. 5.
(16) Cf. No. 50: AAS 93 (2001), 303.
(17) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis," 17: AAS 80 (1988) 532.
(18) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," 22.
(19) Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Dogmatic Constitution "Lumen Gentium," 35.
(20) Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," 38.
(21) Encyclical Letter "Rerum Novarum": Acta Leonis
11 (1892), 143; cf. Benedict XV, Encyclical Letter "Pacem Dei": AAS 12
Presentation on Message for World Day of Peace
"Right to Peace and to Development"
VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2004 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address delivered today by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, when presenting to the press the message of John Paul II for World Day of Peace 2005.
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I am pleased to be with you for the presentation of the Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the 2005 World Day of Peace. For this occasion, the Holy Father has chosen as the theme for reflection a verse from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). With typical incisiveness, the great Apostle invites us to a discernment, both personal and communal, on the crucial questions of evil and its dramatic influence on human lives and admonishes us to take up, with mature responsibility, the good and its diffusion. Using the Letter to the Romans as an inspiring and orienting background, which is often cited in the first part of the document, the whole papal message addresses the theme of peace within an articulated and complex reflection on good and evil. The Holy Father affirms, "The great Apostle brings out a fundamental truth: peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil is defeated by good" (No. 1). In this context peace is defined as a "good to be promoted with good: it is a good for individuals, for families, for nations and for all humanity; yet it is one which needs to be maintained and fostered by decisions and actions inspired by good" (No. 1).
The papal message is structured in three parts, in which the theme of peace is addressed progressively in relation to various aspects and levels of good. In the first part, peace is considered in its rapport with the moral good. In the second, peace is seen in its rapport with a classic principle of the social doctrine of the Church, the principle of the common good. In the third, peace is treated in its close connection with the use of the goods of the earth and with a very pertinent reference to another great principle of the social doctrine, the universal destination of goods. Peace, therefore, as its own good, is presented in its close connection with the moral good, the common good and the goods of the earth.
Evil and good: their moral connotation
At the center of the drama of evil is a protagonist: the human person with his liberty and his sin. Evil could not occur if the human person was not made radically free. Human liberty is at the center of the drama of evil and it will accompany it until the end. With the validation of human liberty, the Holy Father refutes all readings and interpretations of the history of man characterized by a vision of evil as an "impersonal, deterministic force at work in the world" (No. 2). In order to delineate the moral profile of evil, the Pope expresses himself with very effective words and strong impact: "Evil always has a name and a face; the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it" (No. 2). Evil, which philosophic thought has described as a "privatio boni," as a privation of good, is in fact a negative movement that the human will commits "when it abandons that which is superior and turns towards something inferior."1 With careful consideration of evil it is easy to find in it and its manifestations a sinful movement of the human will that casts doubt on the fundamental relations of the person with God and with other persons. The Holy Father affirms: "Evil definitely is a tragic rejection of the demands of love,"2 while the moral good is considered closely connected to love because it "is born of love, shows itself as love and is directed to love" (No. 2).
After these brief but weighty references to the moral connotation of good and evil, the Holy Father dwells on a very important point, if considered in the complex horizon of Catholic social teaching: in order to face the multiple social and political manifestations of evil, modern humanity must treasure the common patrimony of moral values received as a gift from God. In this part of the message, the Holy Father revives his teaching on the natural law that, in 1995, I heard expounded in his Address to the United Nations General Assembly, during which he implored all, with courage and prophetic farsightedness, to refer, in their common service to peace, to the grammar of the universal moral law, the only capable way to unite people among themselves in their diversity of cultures.
In considering the value of the grammar of the universal moral law, the Holy Father condemns violence generally and stigmatizes four situations of violence in our time: conflicts in Africa, the dangerous situation of Palestine, terrorism which seems to push the whole world towards a future of fear and anxiety, and the Iraqi drama which multiplies uncertainly and insecurity. What is the response to violence defined as an unacceptable evil? Taking up again some themes from last year's Message for the World Day of Peace, the Holy Father calls for a great teaching effort of consciences capable of opening for all, especially the young generations, the vast horizons of an integral and solidary humanism (No. 4).
Peace and the common good
In this part of the message the Holy Father associates the promotion of peace to the common good, the definition of which is taken from the conciliar pastoral constitution "Gaudium et Spes," No. 26. When the common good is cultivated, peace is cultivated: This is the basic affirmation, the starting point for all papal reflection in proposing the value of the common good as a good that -- on this specific point from No. 164 of the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church -- "does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains "common," because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it, increase it and safeguard its effectiveness, with regard also to the future." It can be affirmed that the common good constitutes the social and communitarian dimension of the moral good.
After calling for everyone's commitment to the common good and, above all, the commitment of public authorities, the Holy Father binds the promotion of the common good to respect for the person and his fundamental rights, as well as to respect for the rights of Nations in a universal perspective, asking for the commencement of real international cooperation. This part of the message closes with the warning not to reduce the common good to mere socioeconomic well-being. This is possible if the common good remains open to the transcendental dimension. The already cited Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church contains very clear statements in this area: "The common good of society is not an end in itself; it has value only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation. God is the ultimate end of his creatures and for no reason may the common good be deprived of its transcendent dimension, which moves beyond the historical dimension while at the same time fulfilling it" (No. 170).
The good of peace and the goods of the earth
The third part of the message is entirely dedicated to the use of the goods of the earth, which the Holy Father treats in the context of the social doctrine principle of the universal destination of these same goods. In order to grasp the prophetic force of this part of the message, it is worth recalling the passage of "Gaudium et Spes" that describes this principle. "God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should be in abundance for all in like manner." This section of the conciliar document allows us to understand the full reach and innovative value of a passage of the papal message that illustrates, for the first time in social doctrine, the principle of world citizenship.
These two principles -- the universal destination of the goods of the earth and world citizenship -- illuminate each other and constitute, one may say, two beacons capable of illuminating political choices of the international community for the promotion of the development of peoples from an ethical and cultural perspective cast towards an integral and solidary development of humanity. It is worthwhile to read this weighty section of the Papal message: "As a member of the human family, each person becomes as it were a citizen of the world, with consequent duties and rights, since all human beings are united by a common origin and the same supreme destiny. By the mere fact of being conceived, a child is entitled to rights and deserving of care and attention; and someone has the duty to provide these. The condemnation of racism, the protection of minorities, the provision of aid to displaced persons and refugees, and the mobilization of international solidarity towards all the needy are nothing other than consistent application of the principle of world citizenship" (No. 6).
In this ethical-cultural context, the Holy Father confronts a series of very urgent questions, all present on the agenda of the international community. They are questions for which the solution is generally bound to the affirmation of the right to peace and the right to development.
a) The first question regards the use and destination of those new goods which are the fruit of scientific knowledge and technological progress. The Holy Father affirms that these new goods also have a universal destination, for which the property of these goods -- commonly called intellectual property -- must have, as any other property, a function of social character. It concerns goods that must be at the service of primary human needs, within a juridical framework of international co-responsibility which liberates enormous potentialities, with the toppling of barriers and monopolies.
b) The second question addressed by the Holy Father is one related to so-called public goods, goods which all citizens enjoy automatically without having made precise choices and which are however expressions of common interests. The Holy Father names some of these: "We need but think of the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace and security, concern for climate change and disease control. The international community must respond to these interests with a broader network of juridical accords aimed at regulating the use of public goods and inspired by universal principles of fairness and solidarity" (No. 7).
c) The third question put forward by the Holy Father is the fight against poverty, which remains the principle objective of the action of the international community at the outset of this millennium and which the Church must confront from the perspective of another principle of social doctrine, preferential love for the poor.
In addressing the dramatic problem of poverty, the Holy Father deals with three very concrete knots which need to be untied right away.
1) The first knot to untie regards the foreign debt of poor countries. The Holy Father recognizes the progress made, but, at the same time, he must observe with disappointment that "the question has not yet been adequately resolved" (No. 8). After the engaging campaign on foreign debt conducted personally by the Holy Father before and during the Jubilee Year of 2000, it seems that the debt question has faded, unresolved, into oblivion. This is not so for Pope John Paul II who, with tenacity and determination, has revived it, putting it at the center of all agendas that note the moral urgency of commitments for the fight against poverty.
2) The fight against poverty also entails a renewed international commitment in financing for development, "the only really effective means of enabling States to deal with the grave problem of poverty" (No. 9). After having asked for moral and economic mobilization, the Holy Father addresses two particular questions: the first regarding Official Development Assistance (ODA) -- accompanied with the call to respect the commitments already made to give 0.7% of GNP to development -- and the second regards new proposals for the financing of development, which are very much encouraged to move from plans to concrete actions. In discussing these themes, the Holy Father offers all of his support and encouragement, along with that of the entire Church to the many Catholic aid and development agencies for their valuable work in these very dramatic fields to combat misery and poverty.
3) At the center of the fight against poverty, with a pressing call for the exercise of a new creativity in charity, the Holy Father places the African continent, blocked in its development by many difficult problems; armed conflicts, pandemic diseases, conditions of misery, political instability and social insecurity. The section of the Papal Message on Africa has expressions typical of solemn language which reveal the moral awareness concerning historical questions crucial for the future of humanity. It is worthwhile to read from this section at length: "These are tragic situations which call for a radically new direction for Africa: there is a need to create new forms of solidarity, at bilateral and multilateral levels, through a more decisive commitment on the part of all, with complete conviction that the well-being of the peoples of Africa is an indispensable condition for the attainment of the universal common good. May the peoples of Africa become the protagonists of their own destiny and their own cultural, civil, social and economic development! May Africa cease to be a mere recipient of aid, and become a responsible agent of convinced and productive sharing! Achieving this goal calls for a new political culture, especially in the area of international cooperation" (n. 10).
The road ahead for reaching the solution to the problems of Africa is one that recalls respect for the promises related to Official Development Assistance, a substantial alleviating of the weight of international debt, the opening of markets and an increase in commercial exchange. Recalling the teaching of "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis" (cf., No. 17), the Holy Father affirms that "development either becomes shared in common by every part of the world or it undergoes a process of regression even in zones marked by constant progress."
In the face of terrible scenarios drawn from the presence of evil, the Holy Father invites everyone to raise their eyes to God who, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has rendered possible for all the victory of good over evil. The universality of evil is conquered by the universality of Christ's salvation. From this perspective, "based on the certainty that evil will not prevail, Christians nourish an invincible hope which sustains their efforts to promote justice and peace … as well as firm confidence in the possibility of building a better world" (No. 11). Recalling the initial accents of the message where the moral good is presented in its bonds to love, the Holy Father affirms that "when good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails. Christians … should show by their lives that love is the only force capable of bringing fulfillment to persons and societies, the only force capable of directing the course of history in the way of goodness and peace" (No. 12). The road of charity and the road of peace have in the Eucharistic Sacrament the place of their full truth and the source of their success. In the year dedicated to the Eucharist, the Holy Father closes his Message presenting the social bonds of the supreme sacrament of love: "by sharing in the one bread and the one cup, we come to realize that we are 'God's family' and that together we can make our own effective contribution to building a world based on the values of freedom, justice and peace" (No. 12).
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1. St. Augustine, "De Civitate Dei," XII, 6.
2. Augustine affirms this proposition: "Two loves,
formed two cities: the love of self, carried to the contempt of God,
the earthly city; the love of God, carried to the contempt of self,
the heavenly city," "De Civitate Dei," XIV, 28.