Message of Pope Francis for the celebration of the 54th World Day of Peace – 1 January 2021

The culture of care as a path to peace

  1. As the New Year approaches, I wish to extend my most respectful greetings to the Heads of State and Government, the heads of international organizations, the spiritual leaders and faithful of the various religions, men and women of good will. I extend my best wishes to everyone, so that this year may make humanity progress on the path of fraternity, justice and peace among individuals, communities, peoples and states.

2020 was marked by the great health crisis of Covid-19, which turned into a multisectoral and global phenomenon, aggravating strongly interrelated crises, such as climate, food, economic and migratory crises, and causing severe suffering and hardship. I am thinking first of all of those who have lost a family member or loved one, but also of those who have been unemployed. A special memory goes to the doctors, nurses, pharmacists, researchers, volunteers, chaplains and staff of hospitals and health centers, who have done their utmost and continue to do so, with great efforts and sacrifices, to the point that some of they died trying to be close to the sick, to alleviate their suffering or save their lives. In paying homage to these people,[1]

It is painful to note that, alongside numerous testimonies of charity and solidarity, unfortunately different forms of nationalism, racism, xenophobia and even wars and conflicts that sow death and destruction are gaining new momentum.

These and other events, which have marked the path of humanity in the past year, teach us the importance of taking care of each other and of creation, to build a society founded on relationships of brotherhood. Therefore I have chosen as the theme of this message: The culture of care as a path to peace. Culture of care to eradicate the culture of indifference, rejection and confrontation, which is often prevalent today.

  1. God the Creator, origin of the human vocation to care

In many religious traditions, there are narratives that refer to the origin of man, to his relationship with the Creator, with nature and with his fellow men. In the Bible, the Book of Genesis reveals, from the beginning, the importance of caring or keeping in God’s plan for humanity, highlighting the relationship between man (‘adam) and the earth (‘ adamah) and between brothers. In the biblical account of creation, God entrusts the garden “planted in Eden” (cf. Gen 2: 8) to the hands of Adam with the task of “cultivating it and keeping it” (cf. Gen 2:15). This means, on the one hand, making the earth productive and, on the other hand, protecting it and keeping it able to sustain life. [2]The verbs “to cultivate” and “to guard” describe Adam’s relationship with his garden-house and also indicate the trust that God places in him making him lord and guardian of the whole creation.

The birth of Cain and Abel generates a story of brothers, the relationship between which will be interpreted – negatively – by Cain in terms of guardianship or custody. After killing his brother Abel, Cain thus answers God’s question: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4: 9). [3] Yes, of course! Cain is his brother’s “keeper”. “These ancient tales, rich in profound symbolism, already contained a conviction that is felt today: that everything is related, and that the authentic care of our own life and of our relations with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and by fidelity to others “. [4]

  1. God the Creator, model of care

Sacred Scripture presents God, as well as as Creator, as the One who takes care of his creatures, in particular of Adam, Eve and their children. Even Cain himself, although the curse falls on him because of the crime he committed, receives as a gift from the Creator a sign of protection, so that his life may be safeguarded (cf. Gen 4:15). This fact, while confirming the inviolable dignity of the person, created in the image and likeness of God, also manifests the divine plan to preserve the harmony of creation, because “peace and violence cannot dwell in the same dwelling”. [5]

Precisely the care of creation is at the basis of the institution of Shabbat which, in addition to regulating divine worship, aimed to restore social order and attention to the poor (Gen 1: 1-3; Lv 25: 4). The celebration of the Jubilee, on the recurrence of the seventh sabbatical year, allowed a truce to the earth, to slaves and to the indebted. In this year of grace, care was taken for the most vulnerable, offering them a new perspective of life, so that there would be no needy among the people (cf. Dt 15: 4).

Also noteworthy is the prophetic tradition, where the pinnacle of the biblical understanding of justice is manifested in the way a community treats the weakest internally. This is why Amos (2: 6-8; 8) and Isaiah (58), in particular, continually raise their voices in favor of justice for the poor, who, because of their vulnerability and lack of power, are heard. only from God, who takes care of them (cf. Ps 34.7; 113.7-8).

  1. Care in the ministry of Jesus

The life and ministry of Jesus embody the pinnacle of the revelation of the Father’s love for humanity (Jn 3:16). In the synagogue of Nazareth, Jesus manifested himself as the One whom the Lord consecrated and “sent to bring the good news to the poor, to proclaim liberation to prisoners and sight to the blind; to set the oppressed free “(Lk 4:18). These messianic actions, typical of jubilees, constitute the most eloquent testimony of the mission entrusted to him by the Father. In his compassion, Christ approaches the sick in body and spirit and heals them; forgive sinners and give them new life. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who takes care of the sheep (cf. Jn 10: 11-18; Ez 34: 1-31); it is the Good Samaritan who bends over the wounded man, heals his wounds and takes care of him (cf. Lk 10: 30-37).

At the height of his mission, Jesus seals his care for us by offering himself on the cross and thus freeing us from the slavery of sin and death. Thus, with the gift of his life and his sacrifice, he opened the way of love for us and says to each one: “Follow me. Do this too “(cf. Lk 10,37).

  1. The culture of care in the life of the followers of Jesus

The spiritual and corporal works of mercy constitute the nucleus of the service of charity of the early Church. Christians of the first generation practiced sharing so that none of them would be needy (cf. Acts 4: 34-35) and they strove to make the community a welcoming home, open to every human situation, willing to take charge of the most fragile. It thus became customary to make voluntary offerings to feed the poor, bury the dead, and feed orphans, the elderly and the victims of disasters, such as castaways. And when, in later periods, the generosity of Christians lost some momentum, some Fathers of the Church insisted that property is intended by God for the common good. Ambrose argued that “nature has poured out all things for men for common use. […] Therefore,[6] Having overcome the persecutions of the first centuries, the Church took advantage of freedom to inspire society and its culture. «The misery of the times aroused new forces at the service of the Christian charitas. History recalls numerous charities. […] Numerous institutes were erected to relieve suffering humanity: hospitals, shelters for the poor, orphanages and orphanages, hospices, etc. ”. [7]

  1. The principles of the Church’s social doctrine as the basis of the culture of care

The diakonia of the origins, enriched by the reflection of the Fathers and animated, through the centuries, by the industrious charity of so many luminous witnesses to the faith, has become the beating heart of the Church’s social doctrine, offering itself to all people of good will as a precious heritage. of principles, criteria and indications, from which to draw the “grammar” of care: the promotion of the dignity of every human person, solidarity with the poor and defenseless, concern for the common good, the safeguarding of creation.

* Care as a promotion of the dignity and rights of the person.

The concept of the person, born and matured in Christianity, helps to pursue a fully human development. Because person always says relationship, not individualism, he affirms inclusion and not exclusion, the unique and inviolable dignity and not exploitation . 8] Every human person is an end in himself, never simply an instrument to be appreciated only for his usefulness, and is created to live together in the family, in the community, in society, where all the members are equal in dignity. It is from this dignity that human rights derive, as well as duties, which, for example, recall the responsibility of welcoming and helping the poor, the sick, the marginalized, each of our “neighbors, near or far in time and space”. [9]

* Care for the common good.

Every aspect of social, political and economic life finds its fulfillment when it is placed at the service of the common good, that is to say the “set of conditions of social life which allow both communities and individual members to reach their perfection more fully. and more quickly ». [10] Therefore, our plans and efforts must always take into account the effects on the entire human family, weighing the consequences for the present moment and for future generations. How true and actual this is is shown by the Covid-19 pandemic, in front of which “we realized we were in the same boat, all fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and necessary, all called to row together” [ 11] , because “nobody saves himself alone”[12] and no isolated nation state can ensure the common good of its own population. [13]

* Healing through solidarity.

Solidarity concretely expresses love for the other, not as a vague feeling, but as “a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good: that is, to the good of each and every one because we are all truly responsible for all”. [14] Solidarity helps us to see the other – both as a person and, in a broad sense, as a people or nation – not as a statistic, or a means to be exploited and then discarded when no longer useful, but as our neighbor , a fellow traveler, called to participate, like us, in the banquet of life to which all are equally invited by God.

* The care and protection of creation.

The Encyclical Laudato si ‘fully acknowledges the interconnection of all created reality and highlights the need to listen to the cry of the needy and that of creation at the same time. From this careful and constant listening, effective care for the earth, our common home, and for the poor can be born. In this regard, I would like to reiterate that “a feeling of intimate union with other beings of nature cannot be authentic, if at the same time there is no tenderness, compassion and concern for human beings in the heart”. [15] “Peace, justice and the safeguarding of creation are three completely connected issues, which cannot be separated in such a way as to be treated individually, on pain of falling back into reductionism”. [16]

  1. The compass for a common course

In a time dominated by the throwaway culture, faced with the worsening of inequalities within and between nations, [17] I would therefore like to invite the leaders of international organizations and governments, of the economic and scientific world, of social communication and educational institutions to take this “compass” of the principles mentioned above in hand, to give a common route to the process of globalization, “a truly human route”. [18]This, in fact, would allow us to appreciate the value and dignity of each person, to act together and in solidarity for the common good, relieving those who suffer from poverty, disease, slavery, discrimination and conflicts. Through this compass, I encourage everyone to become prophets and witnesses of the culture of care, in order to fill so many social inequalities. And this will only be possible with a strong and widespread protagonism of women, in the family and in every social, political and institutional sphere.

The compass of social principles, necessary to promote the culture of care, is also indicative for relations between nations, which should be inspired by brotherhood, mutual respect, solidarity and observance of international law. In this regard, the protection and promotion of fundamental human rights, which are inalienable, universal and indivisible, must be reaffirmed. [19]

Respect for humanitarian law must also be recalled, especially in this phase in which conflicts and wars follow one another without interruption. Unfortunately, many regions and communities have stopped remembering a time when they lived in peace and security. Numerous cities have become epicenters of insecurity: their inhabitants struggle to maintain their normal rhythms, as they are attacked and bombed indiscriminately by explosives, artillery and small arms. Children cannot study. Men and women cannot work to support families. Famine takes root where it was once unknown. People are forced to flee, leaving behind not only their homes but also their family history and cultural roots.

The causes of conflict are many, but the result is always the same: destruction and humanitarian crisis. We must stop and ask ourselves: what has led to the normalization of the conflict in the world? And, above all, how to convert our hearts and change our mentality in order to truly seek peace in solidarity and fraternity?

How much dispersion of resources there is for weapons, especially nuclear weapons, [20] resources that could be used for more significant priorities to ensure the safety of people, such as the promotion of peace and integral human development, the fight against poverty , the guarantee of health needs. This too, on the other hand, is highlighted by global problems such as the current Covid-19 pandemic and climate change. What a courageous decision it would be to “set up a ‘World Fund’ with the money used in weapons and other military expenditures in order to definitively eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of the poorest countries”! [21]

  1. To educate in the culture of care

The promotion of the culture of care requires an educational process and the compass of social principles constitutes, for this purpose, a reliable tool for various interrelated contexts. I would like to give some examples in this regard.

– Education in care is born in the family, the natural and fundamental nucleus of society, where one learns to live in relationship and in mutual respect. However, the family needs to be placed in the conditions to be able to carry out this vital and indispensable task.

– Again in collaboration with the family, other subjects in charge of education are schools and universities, and similarly, in certain respects, the subjects of social communication. [22] They are called to convey a system of values ​​based on the recognition of the dignity of every person, of every linguistic, ethnic and religious community, of every people and of the fundamental rights that derive from it. Education constitutes one of the most just and supportive pillars of society.

– Religions in general, and religious leaders in particular, can play an irreplaceable role in transmitting to the faithful and to society the values ​​of solidarity, respect for differences, welcoming and caring for the most fragile brothers. In this regard, I recall the words of Pope Paul VI addressed to the Ugandan Parliament in 1969: “Do not fear the Church; it honors you, educates you honest and loyal citizens, does not foment rivalry and divisions, seeks to promote healthy freedom, social justice, peace; if it has any preference, this is for the poor, for the education of the little ones and the people, for the care of the suffering and the derelict ». [23]

– To all those engaged in the service of the populations, in international, governmental and non-governmental organizations, having an educational mission, and to all those who, in various capacities, work in the field of education and research, I renew my encouragement, so that may reach the goal of an education “more open and inclusive, capable of patient listening, constructive dialogue and mutual understanding”. [24] I hope that this invitation, addressed in the context of the Global Educational Pact, will find wide and varied acceptance.

  1. There is no peace without the culture of care

The culture of care, as a common, supportive and participatory commitment to protect and promote the dignity and good of all, as a disposition to take an interest, to pay attention, to compassion, to reconciliation and healing, to mutual respect and mutual acceptance , constitutes a privileged way to build peace. “In many parts of the world there is a need for peace paths that lead to healing the wounds, there is a need for peacemakers willing to start healing processes and renewed encounters with ingenuity and audacity”. [25]

In this time, in which the boat of humanity, shaken by the storm of the crisis, proceeds with difficulty in search of a calmer and more serene horizon, the rudder of the dignity of the human person and the “compass” of fundamental social principles can allow us to to navigate with a safe and common route. As Christians, we keep our eyes turned to the Virgin Mary, Star of the sea and Mother of hope. Let us all work together to advance towards a new horizon of love and peace, of fraternity and solidarity, of mutual support and mutual acceptance. Let’s not give in to the temptation to disinterest in others, especially the weakest, let’s not get used to looking away, [26]but let us commit ourselves concretely every day to “form a community made up of brothers who welcome each other, taking care of one another”. [27]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2020



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