Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for the Celebration of the 54th World Day of Peace 1 January 2021

  1. A compass pointing to a common path

At a time dominated by a culture of waste, faced with growing inequalities both within and between nations,[17] I urge 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”[18] in the process of globalization.

This will enable 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. 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 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.[19]

Likewise urgent is the need to respect humanitarian law, especially at this time when conflicts and wars continue uninterrupted. Tragically, many regions and communities can no longer remember a time when they dwelt in security and peace. Numerous cities have become epicentres 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.

While such conflicts have many causes, the result is always the same: destruction and humanitarian crises. We need to stop and ask ourselves what has led our world to see conflict as something normal, and how our hearts can be converted and our ways of thinking changed, in order to work for true peace in solidarity and fraternity.

How many resources are spent on weaponry, especially nuclear weapons,[20] that could be used for more significant priorities such as ensuring the safety of individuals, the promotion of peace and integral human development, the fight against poverty, and the provision of health care. Global problems like the present Covid-19 pandemic and climate change have only made these challenges all the more evident. What a courageous decision it would be to “establish a ‘Global Fund’ with the money spent on weapons and other military expenditures, in order to permanently eliminate hunger and contribute to the development of the poorest countries”![21]

  1. Educating for a culture of care

Promoting a culture of care calls for a process of education. The “compass” of social principles can prove useful and reliable in a variety of interrelated contexts. Let me offer a few examples:

– Educating people to care begins in the family, the natural and fundamental nucleus of society, in which we learn how to live and relate to others in a spirit of mutual respect. Yet families need to be empowered to carry out this vital and indispensable task.

– Together with the family, schools and universities – and, in some respects, the communications media – are also responsible for education.[22] They 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. Education is one of the pillars of a more just and fraternal society.

– Religions in general, and religious leaders in particular, can play an indispensable role in handing on to their followers, and to society at large, the values of solidarity, respect for differences, and concern for our brothers and sisters in need. Here I think of the words spoken in 1969 by Pope Paul VI to the Ugandan Parliament: “Have no fear of the Church; she honours you, she educates honest and loyal citizens for you, she does not foment rivalries and divisions, she seeks to promote healthy liberty, social justice, and peace. If she has any preference at all, it is for the poor, for the education of little ones and of the people, for the care of the suffering and abandoned”.[23]

– Once more I encourage all those engaged in public service and in international organizations, both governmental and non-governmental, and all those others who in various ways are involved in the areas of education and research, to work towards the goal of a “more open and inclusive education, involving patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding”.[24] It is my hope that this appeal, made in the context of the Global Compact on Education, will be broadly acknowledged and accepted.

  1. There can be no peace without a culture of care

The culture of care thus 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”.[25]

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;[26] 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”.[27]

From the Vatican, 8 December 2020

Franciscus

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[1] Cf. Video Message to the Seventy-fifth Meeting of the General Assembly of the United Nations, 25 September 2020.

[2] Cf. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 67.

[3] Cf. “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace”, Message for the 2014 World Day of Peace (8 December 2013), 2.

[4] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 70.

[5] PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 488.

[6] De Officiis, 1, 28, 132: PL 16, 67.

[7] K. BIHLMEYER-H. TÜCHLE, Church History, vol. 1, Westminster, The Newman Press, 1958, pp. 373, 374.

[8] Address to Participants in the Conference organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development to mark the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Encyclical Populorum Progressio (4 April 2017).

[9] Message for the Twenty-second Session of the Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP22), 10 November 2016. Cf. INTERDICASTERIAL ROUNDTABLE OF THE HOLY SEE ON INTEGRAL ECOLOGY, Journeying Towards Care for Our Common Home: Five Years after Laudato Si’, Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 31 May 2020.

[10] SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et Spes, 26.

[11] Extraordinary Moment of Prayer in Time of Epidemic, 27 March 2020.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Cf. Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti (3 October 2020), 8; 153.

[14] SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Sollicitudo Rei Socialis (30 December 1987), 38.

[15] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 91.

[16] EPISCOPAL CONFERENCE OF THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC, Pastoral Letter Sobre la relación del hombre con la naturaleza (21 January 1987); cf. Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ (24 May 2015), 92.

[17] Cf. Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti (3 October 2020), 125.

[18] Ibid., 29.

[19] Cf. Message to Participants in the International Conference “Human Rights in the Contemporary World: Achievements, Omissions, Negations”, Rome, 10-11 December 2018.

[20] Cf. Message to the United Nations Conference to Negotiate a Legally Binding Instrument to Prohibit Nuclear Weapons, Leading Towards their Total Elimination, 23 March 2017.

[21] Video Message for the 2020 World Food Day (16 October 2020).

[22] Cf. BENEDICT XVI, “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace”, Message for the 2012 World Day of Peace, (8 December 2011), 2; “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace”, Message for the 2016 World Day of Peace, (8 December 2015), 6.

[23] Address to the Parliament of Uganda, Kampala, 1 August 1969.

[24] Message for the Launch of the Global Compact on Education, 12 September 2019.

[25] Encyclical Letter Fratelli Tutti (3 October 2020), 225.

[26] Cf. ibid., 64.

[27] Ibid., 96; cf. “Fraternity, the Foundation and Pathway to Peace”, Message for the 2014 World Day of Peace (8 December 2013), 1.

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