31 December 2023 | Message

MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS FRANCIS FOR THE LVI WORLD DAY OF PEACE

«As regards the times and the moments, brothers, you don’t need me to write to
you; for you well know that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”
(First Letter of St. Paul to the Thessalonians 5,1-2).
1. With these words, the Apostle Paul invited the community of Thessalonica to
remain steadfast, with their feet and heart firmly planted on the earth, capable
of an attentive gaze on reality and on the events of history. Therefore, even if
the events of our existence appear so tragic and we feel pushed into the dark
and difficult tunnel of injustice and suffering, we are called to keep our hearts
open to hope, trusting in God who becomes present, accompanies us with
tenderness , supports us in our efforts and, above all, directs our path. For this
reason, St. Paul constantly exhorts the community to be vigilant, seeking
goodness, justice and truth: “Let us not sleep like the others, but let us be
vigilant and sober” (5:6). It is an invitation to stay awake, not to lock ourselves
up in fear, pain or resignation, not to give in to distraction, not to be discouraged
but instead to be like sentinels capable of staying awake and seizing the first
light of dawn, especially in the darker.
2. Covid-19 has plunged us into the middle of the night, destabilizing our
ordinary life, turning our plans and habits upside down, overturning the apparent
tranquility of even the most privileged societies, generating disorientation and
suffering, causing death of so many of our brothers and sisters.
Pushed into the whirlwind of sudden challenges and into a situation that was not
entirely clear even from a scientific point of view, the world of health has
mobilized to soothe the pain of many and to try to remedy it; as well as the
political authorities, who had to adopt considerable measures in terms of
organization and management of the emergency.
Together with the physical manifestations, Covid-19 has caused, even with
long-term effects, a general malaise that has concentrated in the hearts of many
people and families, with not negligible implications, fueled by long periods of
isolation and various limitations of freedom.
Furthermore, we cannot forget how the pandemic has touched some raw nerves
in the social and economic order, bringing out contradictions and inequalities. It
has threatened the job security of many and aggravated the increasingly
widespread loneliness in our societies, especially that of the weakest and of the
poor. We think, for example, of the millions of informal workers in many parts of
the world, left without work and without any support throughout the
confinement period.
Rarely do individuals and society progress in situations that generate such a
sense of defeat and bitterness: in fact, it weakens the efforts spent for peace
and causes social conflicts, frustrations and violence of various kinds. In this
sense, the pandemic seems to have upset even the most peaceful areas of our
world, bringing out countless fragilities.
3. After three years, it’s time to take some time to question ourselves, learn,
grow and allow ourselves to be transformed, as individuals and as a community;
a privileged time to prepare for the “day of the Lord”. I have already had the
opportunity to repeat several times that moments of crisis never come out the
same: one comes out either better or worse. Today we are called to ask
ourselves: what have we learned from this pandemic situation? What new paths
will we have to take to abandon the chains of our old habits, to be better
prepared, to dare to be new? What signs of life and hope can we grasp to move
forward and try to make our world better?
Certainly, having experienced first-hand the fragility that distinguishes human
reality and our personal existence, we can say that the greatest lesson that
Covid-19 leaves us as a legacy is the awareness that we all need each other, that
the our greatest treasure, albeit even more fragile, is human brotherhood,
founded on the common divine sonship, and that no one can save himself alone.
It is therefore urgent to seek and promote together the universal values which
trace the path of this human brotherhood. We have also learned that the trust
placed in progress, technology and the effects of globalization has not only been
excessive, but has turned into an individualistic and idolatrous intoxication,
undermining the desired guarantee of justice, concord and peace. In our
fast-paced world, very often the widespread problems of imbalances, injustices,
poverty and marginalization fuel ills and conflicts, and generate violence and
even wars.
While, on the one hand, the pandemic has brought out all of this, we have been
able, on the other, to make positive discoveries: a beneficial return to humility; a
downsizing of certain consumerist claims; a renewed sense of solidarity that
encourages us to get out of our selfishness to open ourselves to the suffering of
others and their needs; as well as a commitment, in some cases truly heroic, of
many people who have spent themselves so that everyone could better
overcome the drama of the emergency.
From this experience came the stronger awareness that invites everyone,
peoples and nations, to put the word “together” back at the center. Indeed, it is
together, in fraternity and solidarity, that we build peace, guarantee justice,
overcome the most painful events. The most effective responses to the
pandemic have in fact been those that have seen social groups, public and
private institutions, international organizations united to respond to the
challenge, leaving aside particular interests. Only the peace that comes from
fraternal and selfless love can help us overcome personal, social and global
crises.
4. At the same time, when we dared to hope that the worst of the night of the
Covid-19 pandemic had been overcome, a new terrible disaster fell upon
humanity. We have witnessed the emergence of another scourge: another war,
in part comparable to Covid-19, but nevertheless driven by guilty human
choices. The war in Ukraine reaps innocent victims and spreads uncertainty, not
only for those directly affected by it, but in a widespread and indiscriminate way
for everyone, even for those who, thousands of kilometers away, suffer its
collateral effects – just think of the grain problems and fuel prices.
Certainly, this is not the post-Covid era we hoped or expected. In fact, this war,
together with all the other conflicts around the globe, represents a defeat for all
of humanity and not just for the parties directly involved. While a vaccine has
been found for Covid-19, adequate solutions have not yet been found for war.
Certainly the virus of war is more difficult to defeat than those which strike the
human organism, because it does not come from the outside, but from within
the human heart, corrupted by sin (cf.Mark’s Gospel 7,17-23).
5. What, then, are we asked to do? First of all, to allow our hearts to be changed
by the emergency we have experienced, that is, to allow God to transform our
usual criteria for interpreting the world and reality through this historical
moment. We can no longer think only of preserving the space of our personal or
national interests, but we must think of ourselves in the light of the common
good, with a sense of community, or as a “we” open to universal fraternity. We
cannot only pursue the protection of ourselves, but it is time to commit
ourselves to the healing of our society and our planet, creating the foundations
for a more just and peaceful world, seriously committed to the search for a good
that is truly common.
To do this and live better after the Covid-19 emergency, one fundamental fact
cannot be ignored: the many moral, social, political and economic crises we are
experiencing are all interconnected, and what we look at as individual problems
are in reality one is the cause or consequence of the other. And so, we are called
to face the challenges of our world with responsibility and compassion. We need
to revisit ensuring public health for all; promote peace actions to put an end to
conflicts and wars that continue to generate victims and poverty; take concerted
care of our common home and implement clear and effective measures to tackle
climate change; fight the virus of inequality and guarantee food and decent work
for all, supporting those who do not even have a minimum wage and are in great
difficulty. The scandal of hungry peoples hurts us. We need to develop, with
adequate policies, reception and integration, especially towards migrants and
those who live as discarded in our societies. Only by spending ourselves in these
situations, with an altruistic desire inspired by God’s infinite and merciful love,
will we be able to build a new world and contribute to building up the Kingdom of
God, which is the Kingdom of love, justice and peace.
In sharing these reflections, I hope that in the new year we can walk together
treasuring what history can teach us. My best marks to the Heads of State and
Government, to the Heads of International Organizations, aiLeaders of the
different religions. I wish all men and women of good will to build day by day, as
artisans of peace, a Happy New Year! Mary Immaculate, Mother of Jesus and
Queen of Peace, intercede for us and for the whole world.

From the Vatican, 8 December 2022