World Peace Is Possible — and a Duty, Says John Paul II

In Message for World Day of Peace 2004

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2003 ( To educate for peace means to show that peace is possible if international law is respected, John Paul II says in his message for the forthcoming World Day of Peace.

“Today that appeal is more urgent than ever, because men and women, in face of the tragedies which continue to afflict humanity, are tempted to yield to fatalism, as if peace were an unattainable ideal,” the Pope explains in the message published today by the Vatican press office.

The message, entitled “An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace,” is a kind of synthesis of the messages delivered over the past 25 years by John Paul II on the first day of the year, dedicated to world peace.

The title is reminiscent of his first message for a World Day of Peace, on Jan. 1, 1979: “To Reach Peace, Teach Peace.”

In fact, the Pope changed his mind on the theme of the latest message. Initially the Vatican press office announced it would be “International Law, a Path for Peace.”

In the new message, the Holy Father writes that he Church “has always taught and continues today to teach a very simple axiom: Peace is possible.”

“Indeed, the Church does not tire of repeating that peace is a duty,” he adds. “It must be built on the four pillars indicated by Blessed John XXIII in his encyclical ‘Pacem in Terris’: truth, justice, love and freedom.”

“In this task of teaching peace, there is a particularly urgent need to lead individuals and peoples to respect the international order and to respect the commitments assumed by the authorities which legitimately represent them,” John Paul II continues.

“It is appropriate to recall this fundamental rule, especially at times when there is a temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law,” he adds.

The message mentions the reasons that led to the creation of the United Nations with a Security Council — “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war.”

“Its essential purpose is to replace the material force of arms with the moral force of law, providing appropriate sanctions for transgressors and adequate reparation for victims,” the Holy Father explains.

“This must also be applicable to those government leaders who violate with impunity human dignity and rights while hiding behind the unacceptable pretext that it is a matter of questions internal to their state,” he stresses.

At the end of the message, John Paul II says he feels “it necessary to repeat that, for the establishment of true peace in the world, justice must find its fulfillment in charity.”

“Certainly law is the first road leading to peace, and people need to be taught to respect that law. Yet one does not arrive at the end of this road unless justice is complemented by love,” he explains.

“Justice and love sometimes appear to be opposing forces. In fact they are but two faces of a single reality, two dimensions of human life needing to be mutually integrated,” the Pope writes.

“For this reason I have often reminded Christians and all persons of good will that forgiveness is needed for solving the problems of individuals and peoples,” he adds. “There is no peace without forgiveness! I say it again here, as my thoughts turn in particular to the continuing crisis in Palestine and the Middle East.”

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