2006 and 2007 and 2008 Messages for World Day of Peace




Message from Pope Benedict XVI for the World Day of Peace 2006

Sunday, January 1st, 2006

IN TRUTH, PEACE

1. In this traditional Message for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of the New Year, I offer cordial greetings and good wishes to men and women everywhere, especially those who are suffering as a result of violence and armed conflicts. My greeting is one filled with hope for a more serene world, a world in which more and more individuals and communities are committed to the paths of justice and peace.

2. Before all else, I wish to express my heartfelt gratitude to my Predecessors, the great Popes Paul VI and John Paul II, who were astute promoters of peace. Guided by the spirit of the Beatitudes, they discerned in the many historical events which marked their respective Pontificates the providential intervention of God, who never ceases to be concerned for the future of the human race. As tireless heralds of the Gospel, they constantly invited everyone to make God the starting-point of their efforts on behalf of concord and peace throughout the world. This, my first Message for the World Day of Peace, is meant to follow in the path of their noble teaching; with it, I wish to reiterate the steadfast resolve of the Holy See to continue serving the cause of peace. The very name Benedict, which I chose on the day of my election to the Chair of Peter, is a sign of my personal commitment to peace. In taking this name, I wanted to evoke both the Patron Saint of Europe, who inspired a civilization of peace on the whole continent, and Pope Benedict XV, who condemned the First World War as a ''useless slaughter''(1) and worked for a universal acknowledgment of the lofty demands of peace.

3. The theme chosen for this year's reflection——In truth, peace —— expresses the conviction that wherever and whenever men and women are enlightened by the splendour of truth, they naturally set out on the path of peace. The Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, promulgated forty years ago at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council, stated that mankind will not succeed in ''building a truly more human world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace''.(2) But what do those words, ''the truth of peace'', really mean? To respond adequately to this question, we must realize that peace cannot be reduced to the simple absence of armed conflict, but needs to be understood as ''the fruit of an order which has been planted in human society by its divine Founder'', an order ''which must be brought about by humanity in its thirst for ever more perfect justice''.(3) As the result of an order planned and willed by the love of God, peace has an intrinsic and invincible truth of its own, and corresponds ''to an irrepressible yearning and hope dwelling within us''.(4)

4. Seen in this way, peace appears as a heavenly gift and a divine grace which demands at every level the exercise of the highest responsibility: that of conforming human history——in truth, justice, freedom and love——to the divine order. Whenever there is a loss of fidelity to the transcendent order, and a loss of respect for that ''grammar'' of dialogue which is the universal moral law written on human hearts,(5) whenever the integral development of the person and the protection of his fundamental rights are hindered or denied, whenever countless people are forced to endure intolerable injustices and inequalities, how can we hope that the good of peace will be realized? The essential elements which make up the truth of that good are missing. Saint Augustine described peace as tranquillitas ordinis,(6) the tranquillity of order. By this, he meant a situation which ultimately enables the truth about man to be fully respected and realized.

5. Who and what, then, can prevent the coming of peace? Sacred Scripture, in its very first book, Genesis, points to the lie told at the very beginning of history by the animal with a forked tongue, whom the Evangelist John calls ''the father of lies'' (Jn 8:44). Lying is also one of the sins spoken of in the final chapter of the last book of the Bible, Revelation, which bars liars from the heavenly Jerusalem: ''outside are... all who love falsehood'' (22:15). Lying is linked to the tragedy of sin and its perverse consequences, which have had, and continue to have, devastating effects on the lives of individuals and nations. We need but think of the events of the past century, when aberrant ideological and political systems wilfully twisted the truth and brought about the exploitation and murder of an appalling number of men and women, wiping out entire families and communities. After experiences like these, how can we fail to be seriously concerned about lies in our own time, lies which are the framework for menacing scenarios of death in many parts of the world. Any authentic search for peace must begin with the realization that the problem of truth and untruth is the concern of every man and woman; it is decisive for the peaceful future of our planet.

6. Peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person, regardless of his or her particular cultural identity. Consequently, everyone should feel committed to service of this great good, and should strive to prevent any form of untruth from poisoning relationships. All people are members of one and the same family. An extreme exaltation of differences clashes with this fundamental truth. We need to regain an awareness that we share a common destiny which is ultimately transcendent, so as to maximize our historical and cultural differences, not in opposition to, but in cooperation with, people belonging to other cultures. These simple truths are what make peace possible; they are easily understood whenever we listen to our own hearts with pure intentions. Peace thus comes to be seen in a new light: not as the mere absence of war, but as a harmonious coexistence of individual citizens within a society governed by justice, one in which the good is also achieved, to the extent possible, for each of them. The truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation, to be transparent in their dealings with others, and to be faithful to their word. In a particular way, the followers of Christ, recognizing the insidious presence of evil and the need for that liberation brought by the divine Master, look to him with confidence, in the knowledge that ''he committed no sin; no guile was found on his lips'' (1 Pet 2:22; cf. Is 53:9). Jesus defined himself as the Truth in person, and, in addressing the seer of the Book of Revelation, he states his complete aversion to ''every one who loves and practices falsehood'' (Rev 22:15). He has disclosed the full truth about humanity and about human history. The power of his grace makes it possible to live ''in'' and ''by'' truth, since he alone is completely true and faithful. Jesus is the truth which gives us peace.

7. The truth of peace must also let its beneficial light shine even amid the tragedy of war. The Fathers of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, pointed out that ''not everything automatically becomes permissible between hostile parties once war has regrettably commenced''.(7) As a means of limiting the devastating consequences of war as much as possible, especially for civilians, the international community has created an international humanitarian law. In a variety of situations and in different settings, the Holy See has expressed its support for this humanitarian law, and has called for it to be respected and promptly implemented, out of the conviction that the truth of peace exists even in the midst of war. International humanitarian law ought to be considered as one of the finest and most effective expressions of the intrinsic demands of the truth of peace. Precisely for this reason, respect for that law must be considered binding on all peoples. Its value must be appreciated and its correct application ensured; it must also be brought up to date by precise norms applicable to the changing scenarios of today's armed conflicts and the use of ever newer and more sophisticated weapons.

8. Here I wish to express gratitude to the international organizations and to all those who are daily engaged in the application of international humanitarian law. Nor can I fail to mention the many soldiers engaged in the delicate work of resolving conflicts and restoring the necessary conditions for peace. I wish to remind them of the words of the Second Vatican Council: ''All those who enter the military in service to their country should look upon themselves as guardians of the security and freedom of their fellow-countrymen, and, in carrying out this duty properly, they too contribute to the establishment of peace''.(8) On this demanding front the Catholic Church's military ordinariates carry out their pastoral activity: I encourage both the military Ordinaries and military chaplains to be, in every situation and context, faithful heralds of the truth of peace.

9. Nowadays, the truth of peace continues to be dramatically compromised and rejected by terrorism, whose criminal threats and attacks leave the world in a state of fear and insecurity. My predecessors Paul VI and John Paul II frequently pointed out the awful responsibility borne by terrorists, while at the same time condemning their senseless and deadly strategies. These are often the fruit of a tragic and disturbing nihilism which Pope John Paul II described in these words: ''Those who kill by acts of terrorism actually despair of humanity, of life, of the future. In their view, everything is to be hated and destroyed''.(9) Not only nihilism, but also religious fanaticism, today often labeled fundamentalism, can inspire and encourage terrorist thinking and activity. From the beginning, John Paul II was aware of the explosive danger represented by fanatical fundamentalism, and he condemned it unsparingly, while warning against attempts to impose, rather than to propose for others freely to accept, one's own convictions about the truth. As he wrote: ''To try to impose on others by violent means what we consider to be the truth is an offence against the dignity of the human being, and ultimately an offence against God in whose image he is made''.(10)

10. Looked at closely, nihilism and the fundamentalism of which we are speaking share an erroneous relationship to truth: the nihilist denies the very existence of truth, while the fundamentalist claims to be able to impose it by force. Despite their different origins and cultural backgrounds, both show a dangerous contempt for human beings and human life, and ultimately for God himself. Indeed, this shared tragic outcome results from a distortion of the full truth about God: nihilism denies God's existence and his provident presence in history, while fanatical fundamentalism disfigures his loving and merciful countenance, replacing him with idols made in its own image. In analyzing the causes of the contemporary phenomenon of terrorism, consideration should be given, not only to its political and social causes, but also to its deeper cultural, religious and ideological motivations.

11. In view of the risks which humanity is facing in our time, all Catholics in every part of the world have a duty to proclaim and embody ever more fully the ''Gospel of Peace'', and to show that acknowledgment of the full truth of God is the first, indispensable condition for consolidating the truth of peace. God is Love which saves, a loving Father who wants to see his children look upon one another as brothers and sisters, working responsibly to place their various talents at the service of the common good of the human family. God is the unfailing source of the hope which gives meaning to personal and community life. God, and God alone, brings to fulfilment every work of good and of peace. History has amply demonstrated that declaring war on God in order to eradicate him from human hearts only leads a fearful and impoverished humanity toward decisions which are ultimately futile. This realization must impel believers in Christ to become convincing witnesses of the God who is inseparably truth and love, placing themselves at the service of peace in broad cooperation with other Christians, the followers of other religions and with all men and women of good will.

12. Looking at the present world situation, we can note with satisfaction certain signs of hope in the work of building peace. I think, for example, of the decrease in the number of armed conflicts. Here we are speaking of a few, very tentative steps forward along the path of peace, yet ones which even now are able to hold out a future of greater serenity, particularly for the suffering people of Palestine, the land of Jesus, and for those living in some areas of Africa and Asia, who have waited for years for the positive conclusion of the ongoing processes of pacification and reconciliation. These are reassuring signs which need to be confirmed and consolidated by tireless cooperation and activity, above all on the part of the international community and its agencies charged with preventing conflicts and providing a peaceful solution to those in course.

13. All this must not, however, lead to a naive optimism. It must not be forgotten that, tragically, violent fratricidal conflicts and devastating wars still continue to sow tears and death in vast parts of the world. Situations exist where conflict, hidden like flame beneath ashes, can flare up anew and cause immense destruction. Those authorities who, rather than making every effort to promote peace, incite their citizens to hostility towards other nations, bear a heavy burden of responsibility: in regions particularly at risk, they jeopardize the delicate balance achieved at the cost of patient negotiations and thus help make the future of humanity more uncertain and ominous. What can be said, too, about those governments which count on nuclear arms as a means of ensuring the security of their countries? Along with countless persons of good will, one can state that this point of view is not only baneful but also completely fallacious. In a nuclear war there would be no victors, only victims. The truth of peace requires that all ——whether those governments which openly or secretly possess nuclear arms, or those planning to acquire them—— agree to change their course by clear and firm decisions, and strive for a progressive and concerted nuclear disarmament. The resources which would be saved could then be employed in projects of development capable of benefiting all their people, especially the poor.

14. In this regard, one can only note with dismay the evidence of a continuing growth in military expenditure and the flourishing arms trade, while the political and juridic process established by the international community for promoting disarmament is bogged down in general indifference. How can there ever be a future of peace when investments are still made in the production of arms and in research aimed at developing new ones? It can only be hoped that the international community will find the wisdom and courage to take up once more, jointly and with renewed conviction, the process of disarmament, and thus concretely ensure the right to peace enjoyed by every individual and every people. By their commitment to safeguarding the good of peace, the various agencies of the international community will regain the authority needed to make their initiatives credible and effective.

15. The first to benefit from a decisive choice for disarmament will be the poor countries, which rightly demand, after having heard so many promises, the concrete implementation of their right to development. That right was solemnly reaffirmed in the recent General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, which this year celebrated the sixtieth anniversary of its foundation. The Catholic Church, while confirming her confidence in this international body, calls for the institutional and operative renewal which would enable it to respond to the changed needs of the present time, characterized by the vast phenomenon of globalization. The United Nations Organization must become a more efficient instrument for promoting the values of justice, solidarity and peace in the world. For her part, the Church, in fidelity to the mission she has received from her Founder, is committed to proclaiming everywhere ''the Gospel of peace''. In the firm conviction that she offers an indispensable service to all those who strive to promote peace, she reminds everyone that, if peace is to be authentic and lasting, it must be built on the bedrock of the truth about God and the truth about man. This truth alone can create a sensitivity to justice and openness to love and solidarity, while encouraging everyone to work for a truly free and harmonious human family. The foundations of authentic peace rest on the truth about God and man.

16. At the conclusion of this Message, I would like to address a particular word to all believers in Christ, inviting them once again to be attentive and generous disciples of the Lord. When we hear the Gospel, dear brothers and sisters, we learn to build peace on the truth of a daily life inspired by the commandment of love. Every community should undertake an extensive process of education and witness aimed at making everyone more aware of the need for a fuller appreciation of the truth of peace. At the same time I ask for an increase of prayers, since peace is above all a gift of God, a gift to be implored incessantly. By God's help, our proclamation and witness to the truth of peace will be all the more convincing and illuminating. With confidence and filial abandonment let us lift up our eyes to Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace. At the beginning of this New Year, let us ask her to help all God's People, wherever they may be, to work for peace and to be guided by the light of the truth that sets man free (cf. Jn 8:32). Through Mary's intercession, may all mankind grow in esteem for this fundamental good and strive to make it ever more present in our world, and, in this way, to offer a safer and more serene future to generations yet to come.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2005.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

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(1) Appeal to the Heads of the Warring Peoples (1 August 1917): AAS 9 (1917), 423.

(2) No. 77.

(3) Ibid., 78.

(4) John Paul II, Message for the 2004 World Day of Peace, 9.

(5) Cf. John Paul II, Address to the 50th General Assembly of the United Nations (5 Oct. 1995), No. 3.

(6) De Civitate Dei, XIX, 13.

(7) No. 79.

(8) Ibid.

(9) Message for the 2002 World Day of Peace, 6.

(10) Ibid.

©© Copyright 2005 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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Pope's World Day of Peace Message 2007    (followed by commentary)
"Both Gift and Task"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 13, 2006 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of Benedict XVI's message for World Day of Peace 2007.

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MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS
POPE BENEDICT XVI
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF THE
WORLD DAY OF PEACE
1 JANUARY 2007

THE HUMAN PERSON, THE HEART OF PEACE

1. At the beginning of the new year, I wish to extend prayerful good wishes for peace to Governments, leaders of nations and all men and women of good will. In a special way, I invoke peace upon all those experiencing pain and suffering, those living under the threat of violence and armed aggression, and those who await their human and social emancipation, having had their dignity trampled upon. I invoke peace upon children, who by their innocence enrich humanity with goodness and hope, and by their sufferings compel us all to work for justice and peace. Out of concern for children, especially those whose future is compromised by exploitation and the malice of unscrupulous adults, I wish on this World Day of Peace to encourage everyone to reflect on the theme: "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace." I am convinced that respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism. In this way a serene future is prepared for coming generations.

The human person and peace: gift and task

2. Sacred Scripture affirms that "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27). As one created in the image of God, each individual human being has the dignity of a person; he or she is not just something, but someone, capable of self-knowledge, self-possession, free self-giving and entering into communion with others. At the same time, each person is called, by grace, to a covenant with the Creator, called to offer him a response of faith and love that no other creature can give in his place(1). From this supernatural perspective, one can understand the task entrusted to human beings to mature in the ability to love and to contribute to the progress of the world, renewing it in justice and in peace. In a striking synthesis, Saint Augustine teaches that "God created us without our aid; but he did not choose to save us without our aid(2)." Consequently all human beings have the duty to cultivate an awareness of this twofold aspect of gift and task.

3. Likewise, peace is both gift and task. If it is true that peace between individuals and peoples -- the ability to live together and to build relationships of justice and solidarity -- calls for unfailing commitment on our part, it is also true, and indeed more so, that peace is a gift from God. Peace is an aspect of God's activity, made manifest both in the creation of an orderly and harmonious universe and also in the redemption of humanity that needs to be rescued from the disorder of sin. Creation and Redemption thus provide a key that helps us begin to understand the meaning of our life on earth. My venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, addressing the General Assembly of the United Nations on 5 October 1995, stated that "we do not live in an irrational or meaningless world ... there is a moral logic which is built into human life and which makes possible dialogue between individuals and peoples(3)." The transcendent "grammar", that is to say the body of rules for individual action and the reciprocal relationships of persons in accordance with justice and solidarity, is inscribed on human consciences, in which the wise plan of God is reflected. As I recently had occasion to reaffirm: "we believe that at the beginning of everything is the Eternal Word, Reason and not Unreason(4)." Peace is thus also a task demanding of everyone a personal response consistent with God's plan. The criterion inspiring this response can only be respect for the "grammar" written on human hearts by the divine Creator.

From this standpoint, the norms of the natural law should not be viewed as externally imposed decrees, as restraints upon human freedom. Rather, they should be welcomed as a call to carry out faithfully the universal divine plan inscribed in the nature of human beings. Guided by these norms, all peoples -- within their respective cultures -- can draw near to the greatest mystery, which is the mystery of God. Today too, recognition and respect for natural law represents the foundation for a dialogue between the followers of the different religions and between believers and non-believers. As a great point of convergence, this is also a fundamental presupposition for authentic peace.

The right to life and to religious freedom

4. The duty to respect the dignity of each human being, in whose nature the image of the Creator is reflected, means in consequence that the person can not be disposed of at will. Those with greater political, technical, or economic power may not use that power to violate the rights of others who are less fortunate. Peace is based on respect for the rights of all. Conscious of this, the Church champions the fundamental rights of each person. In particular she promotes and defends respect for the life and the religious freedom of everyone. Respect for the right to life at every stage firmly establishes a principle of decisive importance: life is a gift which is not completely at the disposal of the subject. Similarly, the affirmation of the right to religious freedom places the human being in a relationship with a transcendent principle which withdraws him from human caprice. The right to life and to the free expression of personal faith in God is not subject to the power of man. Peace requires the establishment of a clear boundary between what is at man's disposal and what is not: in this way unacceptable intrusions into the patrimony of specifically human values will be avoided.

5. As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society: alongside the victims of armed conflicts, terrorism and the different forms of violence, there are the silent deaths caused by hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia. How can we fail to see in all this an attack on peace? Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace. As far as the free expression of personal faith is concerned, another disturbing symptom of lack of peace in the world is represented by the difficulties that both Christians and the followers of other religions frequently encounter in publicly and freely professing their religious convictions. Speaking of Christians in particular, I must point out with pain that not only are they at times prevented from doing so; in some States they are actually persecuted, and even recently tragic cases of ferocious violence have been recorded. There are regimes that impose a single religion upon everyone, while secular regimes often lead not so much to violent persecution as to systematic cultural denigration of religious beliefs. In both instances, a fundamental human right is not being respected, with serious repercussions for peaceful coexistence. This can only promote a mentality and culture that is not conducive to peace.

The natural equality of all persons

6. At the origin of many tensions that threaten peace are surely the many unjust inequalities still tragically present in our world. Particularly insidious among these are, on the one hand, inequality in access to essential goods like food, water, shelter, health; on the other hand, there are persistent inequalities between men and women in the exercise of basic human rights.

A fundamental element of building peace is the recognition of the essential equality of human persons springing from their common transcendental dignity. Equality on this level is a good belonging to all, inscribed in that natural "grammar" which is deducible from the divine plan of creation; it is a good that cannot be ignored or scorned without causing serious repercussions which put peace at risk. The extremely grave deprivation afflicting many peoples, especially in Africa, lies at the root of violent reactions and thus inflicts a terrible wound on peace.

7. Similarly, inadequate consideration for the condition of women helps to create instability in the fabric of society. I think of the exploitation of women who are treated as objects, and of the many ways that a lack of respect is shown for their dignity; I also think -- in a different context --of the mindset persisting in some cultures, where women are still firmly subordinated to the arbitrary decisions of men, with grave consequences for their personal dignity and for the exercise of their fundamental freedoms. There can be no illusion of a secure peace until these forms of discrimination are also overcome, since they injure the personal dignity impressed by the Creator upon every human being(5).

The "ecology of peace"

8. In his Encyclical Letter "Centesimus Annus", Pope John Paul II wrote: "Not only has God given the earth to man, who must use it with respect for the original good purpose for which it was given to him, but man too is God's gift to man. He must therefore respect the natural and moral structure with which he has been endowed(6)." By responding to this charge, entrusted to them by the Creator, men and women can join in bringing about a world of peace. Alongside the ecology of nature, there exists what can be called a "human" ecology, which in turn demands a "social" ecology. All this means that humanity, if it truly desires peace, must be increasingly conscious of the links between natural ecology, or respect for nature, and human ecology. Experience shows that disregard for the environment always harms human coexistence, and vice versa. It becomes more and more evident that there is an inseparable link between peace with creation and peace among men. Both of these presuppose peace with God. The poem-prayer of Saint Francis, known as "the Canticle of Brother Sun", is a wonderful and ever timely example of this multifaceted ecology of peace.

9. The close connection between these two ecologies can be understood from the increasingly serious problem of energy supplies. In recent years, new nations have entered enthusiastically into industrial production, thereby increasing their energy needs. This has led to an unprecedented race for available resources. Meanwhile, some parts of the planet remain backward and development is effectively blocked, partly because of the rise in energy prices. What will happen to those peoples? What kind of development or non-development will be imposed on them by the scarcity of energy supplies? What injustices and conflicts will be provoked by the race for energy sources? And what will be the reaction of those who are excluded from this race? These are questions that show how respect for nature is closely linked to the need to establish, between individuals and between nations, relationships that are attentive to the dignity of the person and capable of satisfying his or her authentic needs. The destruction of the environment, its improper or selfish use, and the violent hoarding of the earth's resources cause grievances, conflicts and wars, precisely because they are the consequences of an inhumane concept of development. Indeed, if development were limited to the technical-economic aspect, obscuring the moral-religious dimension, it would not be an integral human development, but a one-sided distortion which would end up by unleashing man's destructive capacities.

Reductive visions of man

10. Thus there is an urgent need, even within the framework of current international difficulties and tensions, for a commitment to a human ecology that can favour the growth of the "tree of peace". For this to happen, we must be guided by a vision of the person untainted by ideological and cultural prejudices or by political and economic interests which can instil hatred and violence. It is understandable that visions of man will vary from culture to culture. Yet what cannot be admitted is the cultivation of anthropological conceptions that contain the seeds of hostility and violence. Equally unacceptable are conceptions of God that would encourage intolerance and recourse to violence against others. This is a point which must be clearly reaffirmed: war in God's name is never acceptable! When a certain notion of God is at the origin of criminal acts, it is a sign that that notion has already become an ideology.

11. Today, however, peace is not only threatened by the conflict between reductive visions of man, in other words, between ideologies. It is also threatened by indifference as to what constitutes man's true nature. Many of our contemporaries actually deny the existence of a specific human nature and thus open the door to the most extravagant interpretations of what essentially constitutes a human being. Here too clarity is necessary: a "weak" vision of the person, which would leave room for every conception, even the most bizarre, only apparently favours peace. In reality, it hinders authentic dialogue and opens the way to authoritarian impositions, ultimately leaving the person defenceless and, as a result, easy prey to oppression and violence.

Human rights and international organizations

12. A true and stable peace presupposes respect for human rights. Yet if these rights are grounded on a weak conception of the person, how can they fail to be themselves weakened? Here we can see how profoundly insufficient is a relativistic conception of the person when it comes to justifying and defending his rights. The difficulty in this case is clear: rights are proposed as absolute, yet the foundation on which they are supposed to rest is merely relative. Can we wonder that, faced with the "inconvenient" demands posed by one right or another, someone will come along to question it or determine that it should be set aside? Only if they are grounded in the objective requirements of the nature bestowed on man by the Creator, can the rights attributed to him be affirmed without fear of contradiction. It goes without saying, moreover, that human rights imply corresponding duties. In this regard, Mahatma Gandhi said wisely: "The Ganges of rights flows from the Himalaya of duties." Clarity over these basic presuppositions is needed if human rights, nowadays constantly under attack, are to be adequately defended. Without such clarity, the expression "human rights" will end up being predicated of quite different subjects: in some cases, the human person marked by permanent dignity and rights that are valid always, everywhere and for everyone, in other cases a person with changing dignity and constantly negotiable rights, with regard to content, time and place.

13. The protection of human rights is constantly referred to by international bodies and, in particular, the United Nations Organization, which set itself the fundamental task of promoting the human rights indicated in the 1948 Universal Declaration. That Declaration is regarded as a sort of moral commitment assumed by all mankind. There is a profound truth to this, especially if the rights described in the Declaration are held to be based not simply on the decisions of the assembly that approved them, but on man's very nature and his inalienable dignity as a person created by God. Consequently it is important for international agencies not to lose sight of the natural foundation of human rights. This would enable them to avoid the risk, unfortunately ever-present, of sliding towards a merely positivistic interpretation of those rights. Were that to happen, the international bodies would end up lacking the necessary authority to carry out their role as defenders of the fundamental rights of the person and of peoples, the chief justification for their very existence and activity.

International humanitarian law and the internal law of States

14. The recognition that there exist inalienable human rights connected to our common human nature has led to the establishment of a body of international humanitarian law which States are committed to respect, even in the case of war. Unfortunately, to say nothing of past cases, this has not been consistently implemented in certain recent situations of war. Such, for example, was the case in the conflict that occurred a few months ago in southern Lebanon, where the duty "to protect and help innocent victims" and to avoid involving the civilian population was largely ignored. The heart-rending situation in Lebanon and the new shape of conflicts, especially since the terrorist threat unleashed completely new forms of violence, demand that the international community reaffirm international humanitarian law, and apply it to all present-day situations of armed conflict, including those not currently provided for by international law. Moreover, the scourge of terrorism demands a profound reflection on the ethical limits restricting the use of modern methods of guaranteeing internal security. Increasingly, wars are not declared, especially when they are initiated by terrorist groups determined to attain their ends by any means available. In the face of the disturbing events of recent years, States cannot fail to recognize the need to establish clearer rules to counter effectively the dramatic decline that we are witnessing. War always represents a failure for the international community and a grave loss for humanity. When, despite every effort, war does break out, at least the essential principles of humanity and the basic values of all civil coexistence must be safeguarded; norms of conduct must be established that limit the damage as far as possible and help to alleviate the suffering of civilians and of all the victims of conflicts(7).

15. Another disturbing issue is the desire recently shown by some States to acquire nuclear weapons. This has heightened even more the widespread climate of uncertainty and fear of a possible atomic catastrophe. We are brought back in time to the profound anxieties of the "cold war" period. When it came to an end, there was hope that the atomic peril had been definitively overcome and that mankind could finally breathe a lasting sigh of relief. How timely, in this regard, is the warning of the Second Vatican Council that "every act of war directed to the indiscriminate destruction of whole cities or vast areas with their inhabitants is a crime against God and humanity, which merits firm and unequivocal condemnation(8)." Unfortunately, threatening clouds continue to gather on humanity's horizon. The way to ensure a future of peace for everyone is found not only in international accords for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, but also in the determined commitment to seek their reduction and definitive dismantling. May every attempt be made to arrive through negotiation at the attainment of these objectives! The fate of the whole human family is at stake!

The Church as safeguard of the transcendence of the human person

16. Finally, I wish to make an urgent appeal to the People of God: let every Christian be committed to tireless peace-making and strenuous defence of the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights.

With gratitude to the Lord for having called him to belong to his Church, which is "the sign and safeguard of the transcendental dimension of the human person"(9) in the world, the Christian will tirelessly implore from God the fundamental good of peace, which is of such primary importance in the life of each person. Moreover, he will be proud to serve the cause of peace with generous devotion, offering help to his brothers and sisters, especially those who, in addition to suffering poverty and need, are also deprived of this precious good. Jesus has revealed to us that "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8) and that the highest vocation of every person is love. In Christ we can find the ultimate reason for becoming staunch champions of human dignity and courageous builders of peace.

17. Let every believer, then, unfailingly contribute to the advancement of a true integral humanism in accordance with the teachings of the Encyclical Letters "Populorum Progressio" and "Sollicitudo Rei Socialis", whose respective fortieth and twentieth anniversaries we prepare to celebrate this year. To the Queen of Peace, the Mother of Jesus Christ "our peace" (Eph 2:14), I entrust my urgent prayer for all humanity at the beginning of the year 2007, to which we look with hearts full of hope, notwithstanding the dangers and difficulties that surround us. May Mary show us, in her Son, the Way of peace, and enlighten our vision, so that we can recognize Christ's face in the face of every human person, the heart of peace!

From the Vatican, 8 December 2006.
BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

(1) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 357.
(2) Sermo 169, 11, 13: PL 38, 923.
(3) No. 3.
(4) Homily at Islinger Feld, Regensburg, 12 September 2006.
(5) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter to the Bishops of the Catholic Church on the collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world (31 May 2004), 15-16.
(6) No. 38.
(7) In this regard, the Catechism of the Catholic Church indicates strict and precise criteria: cf. 2307-2317.
(8) Pastoral Constitution "Gaudium et Spes," 80.
(9) Ibid., 76.

[Text issued by the Holy See]

© Copyright 2006 -- Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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                         Commentary

Benedict XVI on the Path to Peace
Paolo Carozza Comments on Pontiff's Message

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, JAN. 9, 2007 (Zenit.org).- On the World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI warned that the path to peace will be uncertain and wayward if it is not paved with a "true integral humanism."

According to Paolo Carozza, the words of Benedict XVI reaffirm what Pope John Paul II had said about peace being the fruit of relationships of justice and solidarity.

Carozza, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, shared with ZENIT how Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace highlighted the role of principles such as the dignity of life, religious freedom and equality among all persons in working toward peace.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Wednesday.

Q: The title of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace, "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace," addresses the rights and dignity of the human person as the path to peace. In what ways does this confront the conventional wisdom of the international diplomatic community?

Carozza: There certainly is a sharp difference between this vision and an approach to peace based merely on the diplomatic, economic, and military relations between sovereign states that some approaches to international peace and security would emphasize. Nevertheless, there is an important sense in which Benedict XVI's point is not new, but in fact picks up and strengthens an understanding of the path to peace that has been present to a significant degree in global affairs at least since World War II.

The architects of the post-1945 international order were highly conscious of the relationship between outrages to the dignity of the human person and the tragedy of war, and that link can already be seen clearly in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the Pope himself recognizes in the message.

In fact, I would say that in much of the world the strong connection between peace and the rights and dignity of the person is now accepted as self-evident. One can see it in the way that the language and politics of human rights has permeated everything from international trade to post-conflict institution building to environmental protection.

Where Benedict XVI goes much further than the prevailing mentality is in his insistence that it is not enough to simply assert -- however correctly -- the link between peace and human dignity. To make that connection real and concrete, not just an abstract ideal or intuition of the truth, one needs to cultivate an adequate and objective understanding of what the human person is, and what human dignity requires.

Benedict XVI thus takes us back to what Mary Ann Glendon has referred to as the "unfinished business" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the question of its foundations. For 60 years the international community has largely proceeded to try to develop and realize human rights though positive law while prescinding from any sustained effort to reach common understandings of their underlying source and scope.

In short, the difference between the vision in Benedict XVI's message and the conventional wisdom of international affairs is not so much in the affirmation that the dignity and rights of the human person are the path to peace, but rather in the Pope's warning that that path will be uncertain, unstable and wayward without a "true integral humanism" that embraces the whole human person as a concrete, given reality -- without reduction, without manipulation, and without ideology.

Q: Natural law is a central theme in the Pope's message, and he sees it as a point of convergence among the various cultures and civilizations, rather than a peculiarly Western idea. Why is natural law an important component for peace?

Carozza: Perhaps the most eloquent answer to this question is not in the words of the Pope's message or in any explanation of it that we could give, but in the witness of his presence in Turkey and the way that in great simplicity he was able to bridge what seems to many an unfathomable chasm in human understanding. He did so by a profound appreciation for and firm focus on what is common to every human heart.

In that recognition of our common humanity lies the only path to a peace that is more than merely the absence of violent conflict. As John Paul II often emphasized and Benedict XVI reaffirms in this message, peace is the fruit of relationships of justice and solidarity, a mutual and genuine commitment to the good of one another. And that commitment only arises out of the mutual recognition of what we share -- the original needs and desires of every human heart.

Thus Benedict XVI stresses that the personal commitment that is required of us to renew the world in peace and justice can only be realized on the basis of "respect for the 'grammar' written on human hearts by the Creator."

Recognition of the natural law is essential not in the first instance as a set of moral rules or restraints, but simply as an acknowledgment of certain truths about every human being and of what is conducive to human flourishing because of the way that we have all been created.

Or to see it from the contrary perspective, one cannot build peace -- in the thick sense of relationships of justice and solidarity -- on the basis of false or weak and uncertain notions of what constitutes the fulfillment of the human heart. On the contrary, as the Pope points out, such relativism invites the victory of power over truth and freedom.

Q: It seems implicit that Benedict XVI's exhortations to reconsider and take seriously the role of reason require a major engagement with the natural law. Because the dialogue of cultures hinges on the acceptance of reason, how can the Church help other cultures, religions and societies engage the natural law tradition of inquiry?

Carozza: The Pope has written in his first encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est," that it is not the role of the Church to bring about justice in the world, but rather to help purify reason by fostering an openness of mind and will, and to liberate reason from its blind spots and self-limitation so that in seeking justice we are able to act more fully in accord with the nature of every human being.

This means first that the task of the Church is to present with clarity and reasonableness the wealth of her teaching, and to propose to the world the insights she has gained from her experience of humanity.

Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace is itself a lucid example of this: It does not pretend to provide solutions -- let alone detailed blueprints -- about how to achieve peace and justice, but educates us by reminding us of the central importance of such principles as the gift of life, freedom of religion, the natural equality of all persons, the destiny of the created world, and so on.

It is up to us to be the bearers of these truths in our work and to generate thereby a culture of "authentic integral humanism" that is capable of transcending cultural divides.

The most important locus for engaging the natural law tradition and fostering a radical openness of reason, therefore, is above all in ourselves. Only if we are attentive first to the education of our own hearts and the purification of our own reason, can we act in the world with the clarity and certainty necessary to engage every person and every culture in a genuine dialogue about what is good for human persons.

Without that affection for the truth of one's own life, even the natural law can easily be reduced from the ground of cross-cultural understanding to a meaningless formalism or an imposition.

Q: The Pope stated: "Peace requires the establishment of a clear boundary between what is at man's disposal and what is not." Can you explain in more detail what he means by this? How can that boundary be established?

Carozza: In several places in this text Benedict XVI shows an acute concern that has consistently marked his thought and teaching more generally, both as Cardinal Ratzinger and since becoming Pope: If nothing is beyond the bounds of human possession and instrumentalization, then there is ultimately no possibility of safeguarding human dignity and freedom.

The phrase quoted in the question raises this preoccupation in the particular context of a discussion of "gift" and "life." Recognizing that our life is given, and not created by us to use as we will, is the first indispensable step toward protecting all human rights with consistency.

The boundary between what is ours to use and what is not, and thus the boundary between inviolable human rights and merely conventional norms, begins with the protection of human life in all the contexts where it is most vulnerable to being reduced to the measure of its material usefulness and disposed of at the will of the more powerful.

The Holy Father mentions, in particular, victims of armed conflict, terrorism and other forms of violence, as well as the "silent deaths" caused by hunger, abortion, euthanasia and experimentation on human embryos.

It is worth highlighting, too, that Benedict XVI explains the fundamental importance of religious freedom along the same lines. By existing beyond the boundaries of what is ours to possess and use, the relationship between the human person and a transcendent "other" is a keystone holding up the edifice of all other human rights.

Q: The heart of the Pope's message seems to be that the path to peace is grounded in a proper anthropology of the human person, in which man is understood as having inherent dignity by virtue of being created in the "imago Dei," as well as a transcendent end. But are there forums in the international community where this "integral humanism" is taken seriously?

Carozza: By its own nature the ideal of integral humanism is one that always demands renewed personal commitment and deeper understanding about the good of human persons in new and different historical and cultural circumstances -- so in a certain sense it is never fully realized but always only in progress.

At the same time, all international fora and institutions were in some way created in response to real, tangible human needs -- for example, as responses to crises or out of a growing awareness of human interdependence and the necessity of coordinating activity for the common good.

Thus, at some level, they all contain within them an important degree of inherent concern for authentic human goods, even if it is always only imperfectly realized. It is important, therefore, always to seek and strengthen those good and constructive elements, while clearly working to resist or "prune" whatever is contrary to them.

This is often a difficult judgment to make because it requires us to steer a course that avoids both an uncritical acceptance of internationalism for its own sake and also an unreflective rejection of international institutions and processes in response to the fact that some of them are very unhealthy.

This is exactly why Benedict XVI's exhortation to strengthen and clarify our reason and not settle for weak or diluted anthropological visions is so essential to the challenge.

Ultimately, a consistent concern for integral humanism in international fora will only be present to the extent that there are individuals there who give it voice and take action consistently with it.

I am happy to say that in my experience of working in international law and institutions there are such persons, and it is always an encouragement and inspiration to encounter them, sometimes in most unexpected ways and places. But there is no doubt that the need is even greater, by far.

First, the world of global affairs desperately needs more people, especially young professionals whose reason and hearts are educated to appreciate the breadth and depth of the dignity of human persons, to dedicate themselves to constructing peace and justice in the world. Secondly, there is a great need for strengthened unity among the disparate individuals already present in these institutions, a unity of conscience and judgment.

In building up that integral humanism, we should not forget that it is not only intergovernmental institutions that are the relevant actors. There is enormous potential today for civil society organizations to contribute, or to undermine, the ideal.

For example, two of the international nongovernmental associations that I am most familiar with that do tremendous good in promoting true humanism today are the World Youth Alliance and the Association of Volunteers in International Service.

Q: In what ways does the vision of human rights advocated by Benedict XVI diverge from the conception of human rights espoused by many international organizations that the Pope says actually divests them of their authority as advocates for the rights of persons?

Carozza: The Pope's use of the word "authority" here is very interesting. Obviously he does not mean authority merely in the sense of the fact of being able to exercise power, or even in the technical juridical sense of having the legal warrant to make decisions and take action.

He refers to the moral authority that ultimately grounds and justifies those actions and exercises of power. And that kind of authority is founded in the common good, which is the total set of conditions allowing for individual persons and groups to reach their fulfillment more easily.

Where international institutions are in fact undermining the common good, they do not have the authority, in the fullest sense, to act or to expect our cooperation even though they might have the factual power and positive legal license to do so. This happens in the world today any time that organizations fail to respect and safeguard the basic rights of persons, to promote social well-being and development, or to foster the stability and security of a just order.

Although Benedict XVI does not say so directly, he knows well that there is one specific issue in particular that threatens to compromise the authority of a wide array of international organizations, and that is abortion.

It is no secret that there has been for some time a very intense and sustained effort on the part of powerful interests to advance access to abortion globally through the influence of international institutions, and that must be one of the prime examples of what Benedict XVI is implicitly referring to, especially in light of his prior, beautiful reminder that "life is a gift which is not completely at the disposal of the subject."

Q: The Pope's message included an exhortation to apply the principles of international law to new forms of conflict and violence, including terrorism. How might this be done? What contributions can the Church make to such a conversation?

Carozza: When existing international law no longer is completely adequate to address new realities and global concerns -- whether it is forms of conflict and violence, new technologies affecting human dignity, new ecological threats, or other problems -- the most reasonable response is not to discard international law, which is an essential tool for the realization of the universal common good generally, but to provoke its development and adaptation to those new circumstances.

One of the critical ways to do so is to recall and insist on the underlying fundamental principles that gave the law its direction and meaning, so that any new rules and practices still adhere to and respect the basic human goods that animated the prior legal order. That consistent insistence on transcendent principles is a tremendously important contribution that the Church makes to global debate.

With regard to the problems posed by contemporary forms of violence, for instance, Benedict XVI rightly points out certain requirements that must be maintained in any evolution of the rules of armed conflict and humanitarian law: that noncombatants be protected and not targeted; and that there must be clear ethical limits on methods of guaranteeing internal security -- such as, presumably, the prohibition on torture.

When these principles and similar ones are maintained with sufficient conviction and resolve, the freedom of international law to change in response to the demands of the common good is enhanced, not diminished.

Q: Significantly, the Pope makes reference to the growing competition for energy sources and its potential for international conflict and war. In what ways can an anthropology of integral humanism and Catholic social doctrine address this problem?

Carozza: The problem, of course, is generated by the multiplicity of interests in possessing and controlling scarce resources. While it is played out through highly complex dynamics in diplomatic, economic and military arenas, it is most fundamentally a problem of the human heart and its relationship to the goods of creation.

Without the growth of the virtue of solidarity, without an increased consciousness of the common destiny of all human persons, and without an education to the meaning and purpose of the things we possess and use, any resolution in the struggle to acquire energy resources or other scarce goods will be no more than a temporary truce, or the partial victory of one power or interest over another.

To generate a lasting solution, therefore, we must start with an adequate appreciation of the person, and of the common stewardship of mankind over the goods of creation, for the benefit of all. Catholic social doctrine is nothing other than this -- a distillation of "what is in accord with the nature of every human being" (as the Pope wrote in "Deus Caritas Est"), and thus an aid to the attainment of justice and peace.

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Papal Message for 2008 World Peace Day
"The Family Is the First and Indispensable Teacher of Peace"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2007 - Here is a Vatican translation of Benedict XVI's message for the 41st World Day of Peace, to be celebrated Jan. 1, 2008. The message titled "The Human Family, a Community of Peace," was signed Saturday and released today.

* * *

       MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI FOR THE CELEBRATION OF
                                       THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

                                                   1 JANUARY 2008

 

THE HUMAN FAMILY, A COMMUNITY OF PEACE

1. At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to send my fervent good wishes for peace, together with a heartfelt message of hope to men and women throughout the world. I do so by offering for our common reflection the theme which I have placed at the beginning of this message. It is one which I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace. The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family. But the peoples of the earth, too, are called to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves, as befits members of the one human family: "All peoples"-as the Second Vatican Council declared-"are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26); they also have one final end, God"(1).

The family, society and peace

2. The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman(2), constitutes "the primary place of ‘humanization' for the person and society"(3), and a "cradle of life and love"(4). The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, "a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order"(5).

3. Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is "the primary living cell of society"(6), something essential is being stated. The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savour the genuine "taste" of peace better than in the original "nest" which nature prepares for them? The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the "vocabulary" of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that "grammar" which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words.

4. The family, since it has the duty of educating its members, is the subject of specific rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represents a landmark of juridic civilization of truly universal value, states that "the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State"(7). For its part, the Holy See sought to acknowledge a special juridic dignity proper to the family by publishing the Charter of the Rights of the Family. In its Preamble we read: "the rights of the person, even if they are expressed as rights of the individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and vital expression in the family"(8). The rights set forth in the Charter are an expression and explicitation of the natural law written on the heart of the human being and made known to him by reason. The denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace.

5. Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace. The family needs to have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all. When society and public policy are not committed to assisting the family in these areas, they deprive themselves of an essential resource in the service of peace. The social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential, have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty.

Humanity is one great family

6. The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth. Here, however, we cannot forget that the family comes into being from the responsible and definitive "yes" of a man and a women, and it continues to live from the conscious "yes" of the children who gradually join it. The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family. We need to say our own "yes" to this vocation which God has inscribed in our very nature. We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters. Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others. By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family.

The family, the human community and the environment

7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

8. In this regard, it is essential to "sense" that the earth is "our common home" and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this "home" of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation. The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony. One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency. The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.

Family, human community and economy

9. An essential condition for peace within individual families is that they should be built upon the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values. Yet it must be added that the family experiences authentic peace when no one lacks what is needed, and when the family patrimony-the fruit of the labour of some, the savings of others, and the active cooperation of all-is well-managed in a spirit of solidarity, without extravagance and without waste. The peace of the family, then, requires an openness to a transcendent patrimony of values, and at the same time a concern for the prudent management of both material goods and inter-personal relationships. The failure of the latter results in the breakdown of reciprocal trust in the face of the uncertainty threatening the future of the nuclear family.

10. Something similar must be said for that other family which is humanity as a whole. The human family, which today is increasingly unified as a result of globalization, also needs, in addition to a foundation of shared values, an economy capable of responding effectively to the requirements of a common good which is now planetary in scope. Here too, a comparison with the natural family proves helpful. Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing. Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth. In particular, the aid given to poor countries must be guided by sound economic principles, avoiding forms of waste associated principally with the maintenance of expensive bureaucracies. Due account must also be taken of the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit, which can prove inhumane.

The family, the human community and the moral law

11. A family lives in peace if all its members submit to a common standard: this is what prevents selfish individualism and brings individuals together, fostering their harmonious coexistence and giving direction to their work. This principle, obvious as it is, also holds true for wider communities: from local and national communities to the international community itself. For the sake of peace, a common law is needed, one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong. The family of peoples experiences many cases of arbitrary conduct, both within individual States and in the relations of States among themselves. In many situations the weak must bow not to the demands of justice, but to the naked power of those stronger than themselves. It bears repeating: power must always be disciplined by law, and this applies also to relations between sovereign States.

12. The Church has often spoken on the subject of the nature and function of law: the juridic norm, which regulates relationships between individuals, disciplines external conduct and establishes penalties for offenders, has as its criterion the moral norm grounded in nature itself. Human reason is capable of discerning this moral norm, at least in its fundamental requirements, and thus ascending to the creative reason of God which is at the origin of all things. The moral norm must be the rule for decisions of conscience and the guide for all human behaviour. Do juridic norms exist for relationships between the nations which make up the human family? And if they exist, are they operative? The answer is: yes, such norms exist, but to ensure that they are truly operative it is necessary to go back to the natural moral norm as the basis of the juridic norm; otherwise the latter constantly remains at the mercy of a fragile and provisional consensus.

13. Knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being. Albeit not without hesitation and doubt, they are capable of discovering, at least in its essential lines, this common moral law which, over and above cultural differences, enables human beings to come to a common understanding regarding the most important aspects of good and evil, justice and injustice. It is essential to go back to this fundamental law, committing our finest intellectual energies to this quest, and not letting ourselves be discouraged by mistakes and misunderstandings. Values grounded in the natural law are indeed present, albeit in a fragmentary and not always consistent way, in international accords, in universally recognized forms of authority, in the principles of humanitarian law incorporated in the legislation of individual States or the statutes of international bodies. Mankind is not "lawless". All the same, there is an urgent need to persevere in dialogue about these issues and to encourage the legislation of individual States to converge towards a recognition of fundamental human rights. The growth of a global juridic culture depends, for that matter, on a constant commitment to strengthen the profound human content of international norms, lest they be reduced to mere procedures, easily subject to manipulation for selfish or ideological reasons.

Overcoming conflicts and disarmament

14. Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person. Many civil wars are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy. The Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighbouring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence. On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race: even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons. The responsibility for this baneful commerce is not limited: the countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry. In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms. At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.

15. Sixty years ago the United Nations Organization solemnly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2008). With that document the human family reacted against the horrors of the Second World War by acknowledging its own unity, based on the equal dignity of all men and women, and by putting respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples at the centre of human coexistence. This was a decisive step forward along the difficult and demanding path towards harmony and peace. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family (1983-2008) and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace (1968-2008). Born of a providential intuition of Pope Paul VI and carried forward with great conviction by my beloved and venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, the celebration of this Day of Peace has made it possible for the Church, over the course of the years, to present in these Messages an instructive body of teaching regarding this fundamental human good. In the light of these significant anniversaries, I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace. I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace. Christians, for their part, know that they can trust in the intercession of Mary, who, as the Mother of the Son of God made flesh for the salvation of all humanity, is our common Mother.

To all my best wishes for a joyful New Year!

From the Vatican, 8 December 2007

BENEDICTUS PP. XVI

(1) Declaration Nostra Aetate, 1.

(2) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 48.

(3) John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 40: AAS 81 (1989), 469.

(4) Ibid.

(5) Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 211.

(6) Second Vatican Council, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11.

(7) Art. 16/3.

(8) Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family, 24 November 1983, Preamble, A.

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On World Day of Peace
"The Virgin Truly Became Mother of God"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2008.- Here is a translation of the address Benedict XVI delivered today before reciting the midday Angelus with several thousand people gathered in St. Peter's Square, on the World Day of Peace.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters:

We have begun a new year and I wish that it will be for all peaceful and prosperous. I commend it to the heavenly protection of the Virgin, to whom the liturgy invokes today with the most important title, the Mother of God. With her "yes" to the angel, on the day of the Annunciation, the Virgin conceived in her womb through the Holy Spirit, the eternal Word, and she brought him forth on the night of the Nativity.

In Bethlehem, in the fullness of time, Jesus was born of Mary: The Son of God was made man for our salvation, and the Virgin truly became Mother of God. This immense gift that Mary received was not reserved only for her, but for us all. In her fruitful virginity, in fact, God gave "to men the benefits of eternal salvation ... because through her we received the author of life" (cf. collect prayer).

Mary, after having given mortal flesh to the only Son of God, became mother of believers and of all humankind.

It is in the name of Mary, Mother of God and of mankind, that for the past 40 years, on the first day of the year, the Church has celebrated the World Day for Peace. The theme that has been chosen this year is "The Human Family, a Community of Peace."

The same love that builds and maintains unity in the family, the vital building block of society, favors these relationships of solidarity and of collaboration among the peoples of the earth, who are members of the single human family.

The Second Vatican Council recalled this when it affirmed, "One is the community of all peoples, one their origin. ... One also is their final goal, God" ("Nostra Aetate," No. 1). There is a close relationship, therefore, among family, society and peace.

"Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family," I wrote in the message for today's World Day of Peace, "undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace" (No. 5).

Also, "We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters" (No. 6). It is truly important that each one of us assumes responsibility before God and recognizes in him the originating font of our own existence, and that of others.

May this awareness give rise to a commitment to make humankind an authentic community of peace, ruled by "a common law ... one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong" (No. 11).

May Mary, Mother of the Prince of Peace, aid the Church in its untiring service for peace, and help the community of nations, that will celebrate in 2008 the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to begin on a path of authentic solidarity and of stable peace.

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Benedict XVI's Homily on World Day of Peace
"The Natural Family … Is a Cradle of Life and Love"

VATICAN CITY, JAN. 6, 2008 - Here is a translation of the homily Benedict XVI delivered in St. Peter's Basilica on Jan. 1, Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, and the 41st World Day of Peace.

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Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are beginning a new year and Christian hope takes us by the hand; let us begin it by invoking divine Blessings upon it and imploring, through the intercession of Mary, Mother of God, the gift of peace: for our families, for our cities, for the whole world. With this hope, I greet all of you present here, starting with the distinguished Ambassadors of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See who have gathered at this celebration on the occasion of the World Day of Peace. I greet Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, and Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and all members of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace. I am particularly grateful to them for their commitment to spread the Message for the World Day of Peace whose theme this year is: "The human family, a community of peace".

Peace. In the First Reading from the Book of Numbers we heard the invocation: "The Lord... give you peace" (6:26); may the Lord grant peace to each one of you, to your families and to the whole world.?We all aspire to live in peace but true peace, the peace proclaimed by the Angels on Christmas night, is not merely a human triumph or the fruit of political agreements; it is first and foremost a divine gift to be ceaselessly implored, and at the same time a commitment to be carried forward patiently, always remaining docile to the Lord's commands.
Inspired by family values

This year, in my Message for today's World Day of Peace, I wanted to highlight the close relationship that exists between the family and building peace in the world. The natural family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman, is "a "cradle of life and love'" and "the first and indispensable teacher of peace". For this very reason the family is "the primary "agency' of peace", and "the denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace" (cf. Nos. 1-5).?Since humanity is a "great family", if it wants to live in peace it cannot fail to draw inspiration from those values on which the family community is based and stands. The providential coincidence of various recurrences spur us this year to make an even greater effort to achieve peace in the world.

Sixty years ago, in 1948, the General Assembly of the United Nations published the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights"; 40 years ago my venerable Predecessor Paul VI celebrated the first World Day of Peace; this year, in addition, we will be commemorating the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the "Charter of the Rights of the Family". "In the light of these significant anniversaries" -- I am repeating here what I wrote precisely at the end of the Message -- "I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace" [No. 15]. ?Our thoughts now turn spontaneously to Our Lady, whom we invoke today as the Mother of God. ?It was Pope Paul VI who moved to 1 January the Feast of the Divine Motherhood of Mary, which was formerly celebrated on 11 October.

Indeed, even before the liturgical reform that followed the Second Vatican Council, the memorial of the circumcision of Jesus on the eighth day after his birth -- as a sign of submission to the law, his official insertion in the Chosen People -- used to be celebrated on the first day of the year and the Feast of the Name of Jesus was celebrated the following Sunday.?We perceive a few traces of these celebrations in the Gospel passage that has just been proclaimed, in which St Luke says that eight days after his birth the Child was circumcised and was given the name "Jesus", "the name given by the Angel before he was conceived in [his Mother's] ... womb" (Luke 2:21). Today's feast, therefore, as well as being a particularly significant Marian feast, also preserves a strongly Christological content because, we might say, before the Mother, it concerns the Son, Jesus, true God and true Man.

Mary's immense privilege

The Apostle Paul refers to the mystery of the divine motherhood of Mary, the "Theotokos," in his Letter to the Galatians. "When the time had fully come", he writes, "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law" (4:4).?We find the mystery of the Incarnation of the Divine Word and the Divine Motherhood of Mary summed up in a few words: the Virgin's great privilege is precisely to be Mother of the Son who is God.?The most logical and proper place for this Marian feast is therefore eight days after Christmas. Indeed, in the night of Bethlehem, when "she gave birth to her first-born son" (Luke 2:7), the prophesies concerning the Messiah were fulfilled. ?"The virgin shall be with child and bear a son", Isaiah had foretold (7:14); "Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son", the Angel Gabriel said to Mary (Luke 1:31); and again, an Angel of the Lord, the Evangelist Matthew recounts, appeared to Joseph in a dream to reassure him and said: "Do not fear to take Mary for your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; she will bear a son" (Matthew 1:20-21).

The title "Mother of God", together with the title "Blessed Virgin", is the oldest on which all the other titles with which Our Lady was venerated are based, and it continues to be invoked from generation to generation in the East and in the West. A multitude of hymns and a wealth of prayers of the Christian tradition refer to the mystery of her divine motherhood, such as, for example, a Marian antiphon of the Christmas season, "Alma Redemptoris mater," with which we pray in these words: "Tu quae genuisti, natura mirante, tuum sanctum Genitorem, Virgo prius ac posterius -- You, in the wonder of all creation, have brought forth your Creator, Mother ever virgin".?Dear brothers and sisters, let us today contemplate Mary, ever-virgin Mother of the Only-Begotten Son of the Father; let us learn from her to welcome the Child who was born for us in Bethlehem. If we recognize in the Child born of her the Eternal Son of God and accept him as our one Saviour, we can be called and we really are children of God: sons in the Son. The Apostle writes: "God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons" (Galatians 4:4).

Same but different Child

The Evangelist Luke repeats several times that Our Lady meditated silently on these extraordinary events in which God had involved her. We also heard this in the short Gospel passage that the Liturgy presents to us today. "Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). ?The Greek verb used, "sumbállousa," literally means "piecing together" and makes us think of a great mystery to be discovered little by little. Although the Child lying in a manger looks like all children in the world, at the same time he is totally different: he is the Son of God, he is God, true God and true man. This mystery -- the Incarnation of the Word and the divine Motherhood of Mary -- is great and certainly far from easy to understand with the human mind alone. Yet, by learning from Mary, we can understand with our hearts what our eyes and minds do not manage to perceive or contain on their own. Indeed, this is such a great gift that only through faith are we granted to accept it, while not entirely understanding it.

And it is precisely on this journey of faith that Mary comes to meet us as our support and guide.?She is mother because she brought forth Jesus in the flesh; she is mother because she adhered totally to the Father's will.?St Augustine wrote: "The divine motherhood would have been of no value to her had Christ not borne her in his heart, with a destiny more fortunate than the moment when she conceived him in the flesh" ("De Sancta Virginitate," 3, 3). And in her heart Mary continued to treasure, to "piece together" the subsequent events of which she was to be a witness and protagonist, even to the death on the Cross and the Resurrection of her Son Jesus.

Dear brothers and sisters, it is only by pondering in the heart, in other words, by piecing together and finding unity in all we experience, that, following Mary, we can penetrate the mystery of a God who was made man out of love and who calls us to follow him on the path of love; a love to be expressed daily by generous service to the brethren.

May the new year which we are confidently beginning today be a time in which to advance in that knowledge of the heart, which is the wisdom of saints. Let us pray, as we heard in the First Reading, that the Lord may "make his face to shine" upon us, "and be gracious" to us (cf. Numbers 6:24-7) and bless us. We may be certain of it: If we never tire of seeking his Face, if we never give in to the temptation of discouragement and doubt, if also among the many difficulties we encounter we always remain anchored to him, we will experience the power of his love and his mercy. May the fragile Child who today the Virgin shows to the world make us peacemakers, witnesses of him, the Prince of Peace. Amen!

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