A Compass for the New Year

“We would have a much better world this year if we heeded the Pope’s words.”

For this column, I share Pope Francis Message for the celebration of the 54th World Day of Peace. This was issued on December 8 for an annual commemoration held every first of the New Year.

In his message, the Pope recalls ‘Laudato Si,’ the encyclical he issued five years ago. In that document, Francis highlighted the interconnectedness of creation. The encyclical also highlights our need to listen to the cry of the poor and, at the same time, to the cry of creation. According to the Pope, “Peace, justice, and care for creation are three inherently connected questions, which cannot be separated in such a way as to be treated individually, lest we fall back into reductionism.”

In his new message, Pope Francis calls on “government leaders and those of international organizations, business leaders, scientists, communicators, and educators, to take up these principles as a ‘compass’ capable of pointing out a common direction and ensuring ‘a more humane future’ in the process of globalization.” For Francis, such a compass enables us “to esteem the value and dignity of every person, to act together in solidarity for the common good, and to bring relief to those suffering from poverty, disease, slavery, armed conflicts, and discrimination.”

He continues: “I ask everyone to take this compass in hand and to become a prophetic witness of the culture of care, working to overcome the many existing social inequalities. This can only come about through a widespread and meaningful involvement on the part of women, in the family, and in every social, political, and institutional sphere.

“The compass of these social principles, so essential for the growth of a culture of care, also points to the need for relationships between nations to be inspired by the fraternity, mutual respect, solidarity, and the observance of international law. In this regard, we must recognize the need to defend and promote fundamental human rights, which are inalienable, universal, and indivisible.”

Pope Francis emphasizes the urgent need to respect humanitarian law in a time of so many conflicts and wars” “Tragically, many regions and communities can no longer remember a time when they dwelt in security and peace. Numerous cities have become epicenters of insecurity: citizens struggle to maintain their normal routine in the face of indiscriminate attacks by explosives, artillery and small arms. Children are unable to study. Men and women cannot work to support their families. Famine is spreading in places where it was previously unknown. People are being forced to take flight, leaving behind not only their homes but also their family history and their cultural roots.”

The results of these conflicts cannot be dismissed: Destruction and humanitarian crises. It is time for all men and women of good will to determine the roots of this violence and to figure out what we need to do so our hearts are converted and our ways of thinking changed so we can work collectively for true peace in solidarity and fraternity.

Education is one of the pillars of a more just and fraternal society. Thus Pope Francis calls for a process of education which begins in the family, extends to schools and universities—and the communications media. Educators are called to pass on a system of values based on the recognition of the dignity of each person, each linguistic, ethnic, and religious community, and each people, as well as the fundamental rights arising from that recognition.

Finally, Pope Francis proposes:

“The culture of care calls for a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance. As such, it represents a privileged path to peace. “In many parts of the world, there is a need for paths of peace to heal open wounds. There is also a need for peacemakers, men and women prepared to work boldly and creatively to initiate processes of healing and renewed encounter.“

At a time like this, when the barque of humanity, tossed by the storm of the current crisis, struggles to advance towards a calmer and more serene horizon, the “rudder” of human dignity and the “compass” of fundamental social principles can enable us together to steer a sure course. As Christians, we should always look to Our Lady, Star of the Sea, and Mother of Hope. May we work together to advance towards a new horizon of love and peace, of fraternity and solidarity, of mutual support and acceptance. May we never yield to the temptation to disregard others, especially those in greatest need, and to look the other way; instead, may we strive daily, in concrete and practical ways, “to form a community composed of brothers and sisters who accept and care for one another.”

All of us are called to follow this compass offered by Pope Francis. It will be a much better world and 2021 if we heeded that.

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