Pope's World Peace Day message: There is light even in our darkest hour
By Francesca Merlo
“No one can be saved alone. Combatting Covid-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace.” With this as its title, Pope Francis has presented his message for the 56th World Day of Peace, held annually on 1 January.
The Holy Father’s message, released on Friday, opens with a quotation from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Thessalonians (5:1-2).
Thus, the Pope recalls that the Apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonian community to remain steadfast. Likewise he says, “when tragic events seem to overwhelm our lives, we are called to keep our hearts open to hope and to trust in God, who makes himself present, accompanies us with tenderness, sustains us in our weariness and, above all, guides our path.”
Darkness of the Covid-19 pandemic
There is light even in the darkest hour, says Pope Francis, before going on to use the Covid-19 pandemic as an example: “The pandemic seems to have upset even the most peaceful parts of our world, and exposed any number of forms of fragility.”
Three years later, he stresses, “the time is right to question, learn, grow and allow ourselves to be transformed as individuals and as communities” reminding us, as he has done before, that “we never emerge the same from times of crisis: we emerge either better or worse."
This experience has made us all the more aware of the need for everyone, including peoples and nations, to restore the word “together” to a central place in our lexicon. Only the peace that comes from a fraternal and disinterested love can help us overcome personal, societal and global crises.
Pope Francis goes on to stress that this is not the post-Covid era we had hoped for or expected. "At the very moment when we dared to hope that the darkest hours of the Covid-19 pandemic were over, a terrible new disaster befell humanity," he said, noting that the world witnessed the onslaught of another scourge: another war, "driven by culpable human decisions."
Pope Francis notes that the war in Ukraine is "reaping innocent victims and spreading insecurity, not only among those directly affected, but in a widespread and indiscriminate way for everyone, also for those who, even thousands of kilometres away, suffer its collateral effects – we need but think of grain shortages and fuel prices."
"This war," he says, "together with all the other conflicts around the globe, represents a setback for the whole of humanity and not merely for the parties directly involved. While a vaccine has been found for Covid-19, suitable solutions have not yet been found for the war."
No one can be saved alone
"What then is being asked of us?" the Pope asks, in light of all these difficult times: "First of all, to let our hearts be changed by our experience of the crisis."
In fact, he explains: "we can no longer think exclusively of carving out space for our personal or national interests, (...) instead we must think in terms of the common good."
We cannot, however, ignore one fundamental fact, he continues: "Many moral, social, political and economic crises we are experiencing are all interconnected, and what we see as isolated problems are actually causes and effects of one another."
And he calls on all those in positions of responsibility and on all men and women of goodwill "to revisit the issue of ensuring public health for all"; to "promote actions that enhance peace and put an end to the conflicts and wars that continue to spawn poverty and death"; "to join in caring for our common home and in implementing clear and effective measures to combat climate change"; "to battle the virus of inequality and to ensure food and dignified labour for all, supporting those who lack even a minimum wage and find themselves in great difficulty."
May we make this a good year for all
Finally, Pope Francis asks that in the coming New Year that "we journey together, valuing the lessons that history has to teach us."