A promise for a future called peace
By Alessandro Gisotti
“You must have noticed how often reflections and appeals on the subject of peace are repeated in our words” . We do so because “we would never want God and history to blame us for being silent in the face of the danger of a new conflagration between nations. " These words, which immediately remind us of the many heartfelt appeals made by Pope Francis in this annus horribilis now drawing to a close, are contained in Saint Paul VI’s Message of 8 December 1967, in which he established the World Day of Peace to be celebrated on January 1 2023, for the 56th time.
This Day, Pope Montini explains, is not meant to be "exclusively ours, religious, that is, Catholic", but open to "the adhesion of all the true friends of peace".
Therefore, in the late Italian Pope’s intention, this commemoration should be celebrated at the very beginning of each new year “as a wish and a promise” that “peace with its just and beneficial balance will dominate the development of future history”.
The humility with which Paul VI proposed this initiative is striking. "The Catholic Church - he emphasized - with the intention of serving and setting an example simply wants to present this idea".
Over the years, and even more so in 2022, that idea has acquired the weight of a prophetic intuition, which is amplified by the attention that is paid to the content of the Message that the popes dedicate annually to this day, far beyond the ecclesial horizon.
Only 5 years before its establishment, Pope Montini's predecessor, St. John XXIII, had used all his energy to favour a peaceful solution to the "Cuban Missile Crisis". From that experience was born the Encyclical Pacem in Terris published the year after, to which Paul VI refers directly, in the conviction that no effort should be spared to promote peace, "the only and true line of human progress".
It is this same spirit that has inspired Pope Francis in these past ten months, with the shadow of a Third World War, no longer in piecemeal, looming ever more clearly over us.
To put an end to the conflict waged by Russia against Ukraine, the Pontiff has raised dozens of appeals, promoted days of prayer and fasting, supported charity initiatives of all kinds. He brought the diplomacy of the Holy See into play with an extraordinary effort (have we ever seen a Pope go to the embassy of a State?). He didn't stop in the face of criticism.
He did so driven by the stubborn conviction that any solution to give peace a chance can and must be attempted, whatever it takes. This is why - despite not knowing what awaits us in the year that is about to begin - we can be sure that Pope Francis will do everything to ensure that the promise called peace, evoked by Paul VI, is kept alive in the future.
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