Presentation on Message for World Day of Peace

“Right to Peace and to Development”

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 16, 2004 ( Here is the address delivered today by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, when presenting to the press the message of John Paul II for World Day of Peace 2005.

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I am pleased to be with you for the presentation of the Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the 2005 World Day of Peace. For this occasion, the Holy Father has chosen as the theme for reflection a verse from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (12:21). With typical incisiveness, the great Apostle invites us to a discernment, both personal and communal, on the crucial questions of evil and its dramatic influence on human lives and admonishes us to take up, with mature responsibility, the good and its diffusion. Using the Letter to the Romans as an inspiring and orienting background, which is often cited in the first part of the document, the whole papal message addresses the theme of peace within an articulated and complex reflection on good and evil. The Holy Father affirms, “The great Apostle brings out a fundamental truth: peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil is defeated by good” (No. 1). In this context peace is defined as a “good to be promoted with good: it is a good for individuals, for families, for nations and for all humanity; yet it is one which needs to be maintained and fostered by decisions and actions inspired by good” (No. 1).

The papal message is structured in three parts, in which the theme of peace is addressed progressively in relation to various aspects and levels of good. In the first part, peace is considered in its rapport with the moral good. In the second, peace is seen in its rapport with a classic principle of the social doctrine of the Church, the principle of the common good. In the third, peace is treated in its close connection with the use of the goods of the earth and with a very pertinent reference to another great principle of the social doctrine, the universal destination of goods. Peace, therefore, as its own good, is presented in its close connection with the moral good, the common good and the goods of the earth.

Evil and good: their moral connotation

At the center of the drama of evil is a protagonist: the human person with his liberty and his sin. Evil could not occur if the human person was not made radically free. Human liberty is at the center of the drama of evil and it will accompany it until the end. With the validation of human liberty, the Holy Father refutes all readings and interpretations of the history of man characterized by a vision of evil as an “impersonal, deterministic force at work in the world” (No. 2). In order to delineate the moral profile of evil, the Pope expresses himself with very effective words and strong impact: “Evil always has a name and a face; the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it” (No. 2). Evil, which philosophic thought has described as a “privatio boni,” as a privation of good, is in fact a negative movement that the human will commits “when it abandons that which is superior and turns towards something inferior.”1 With careful consideration of evil it is easy to find in it and its manifestations a sinful movement of the human will that casts doubt on the fundamental relations of the person with God and with other persons. The Holy Father affirms: “Evil definitely is a tragic rejection of the demands of love,”2 while the moral good is considered closely connected to love because it “is born of love, shows itself as love and is directed to love” (No. 2).

After these brief but weighty references to the moral connotation of good and evil, the Holy Father dwells on a very important point, if considered in the complex horizon of Catholic social teaching: in order to face the multiple social and political manifestations of evil, modern humanity must treasure the common patrimony of moral values received as a gift from God. In this part of the message, the Holy Father revives his teaching on the natural law that, in 1995, I heard expounded in his Address to the United Nations General Assembly, during which he implored all, with courage and prophetic farsightedness, to refer, in their common service to peace, to the grammar of the universal moral law, the only capable way to unite people among themselves in their diversity of cultures.

In considering the value of the grammar of the universal moral law, the Holy Father condemns violence generally and stigmatizes four situations of violence in our time: conflicts in Africa, the dangerous situation of Palestine, terrorism which seems to push the whole world towards a future of fear and anxiety, and the Iraqi drama which multiplies uncertainly and insecurity. What is the response to violence defined as an unacceptable evil? Taking up again some themes from last year’s Message for the World Day of Peace, the Holy Father calls for a great teaching effort of consciences capable of opening for all, especially the young generations, the vast horizons of an integral and solidary humanism (No. 4).

Peace and the common good

In this part of the message the Holy Father associates the promotion of peace to the common good, the definition of which is taken from the conciliar pastoral constitution “Gaudium et Spes,” No. 26. When the common good is cultivated, peace is cultivated: This is the basic affirmation, the starting point for all papal reflection in proposing the value of the common good as a good that — on this specific point from No. 164 of the recently published Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church — “does not consist in the simple sum of the particular goods of each subject of a social entity. Belonging to everyone and to each person, it is and remains “common,” because it is indivisible and because only together is it possible to attain it, increase it and safeguard its effectiveness, with regard also to the future.” It can be affirmed that the common good constitutes the social and communitarian dimension of the moral good.

After calling for everyone’s commitment to the common good and, above all, the commitment of public authorities, the Holy Father binds the promotion of the common good to respect for the person and his fundamental rights, as well as to respect for the rights of Nations in a universal perspective, asking for the commencement of real international cooperation. This part of the message closes with the warning not to reduce the common good to mere socioeconomic well-being. This is possible if the common good remains open to the transcendental dimension. The already cited Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church contains very clear statements in this area: “The common good of society is not an end in itself; it has value only in reference to attaining the ultimate ends of the person and the universal common good of the whole of creation. God is the ultimate end of his creatures and for no reason may the common good be deprived of its transcendent dimension, which moves beyond the historical dimension while at the same time fulfilling it” (No. 170).

The good of peace and the goods of the earth

The third part of the message is entirely dedicated to the use of the goods of the earth, which the Holy Father treats in the context of the social doctrine principle of the universal destination of these same goods. In order to grasp the prophetic force of this part of the message, it is worth recalling the passage of “Gaudium et Spes” that describes this principle. “God intended the earth with everything contained in it for the use of all human beings and peoples. Thus, under the leadership of justice and in the company of charity, created goods should be in abundance for all in like manner.” This section of the conciliar document allows us to understand the full reach and innovative value of a passage of the papal message that illustrate
s, for the first time in social doctrine, the principle of world citizenship.

These two principles — the universal destination of the goods of the earth and world citizenship — illuminate each other and constitute, one may say, two beacons capable of illuminating political choices of the international community for the promotion of the development of peoples from an ethical and cultural perspective cast towards an integral and solidary development of humanity. It is worthwhile to read this weighty section of the Papal message: “As a member of the human family, each person becomes as it were a citizen of the world, with consequent duties and rights, since all human beings are united by a common origin and the same supreme destiny. By the mere fact of being conceived, a child is entitled to rights and deserving of care and attention; and someone has the duty to provide these. The condemnation of racism, the protection of minorities, the provision of aid to displaced persons and refugees, and the mobilization of international solidarity towards all the needy are nothing other than consistent application of the principle of world citizenship” (No. 6).

In this ethical-cultural context, the Holy Father confronts a series of very urgent questions, all present on the agenda of the international community. They are questions for which the solution is generally bound to the affirmation of the right to peace and the right to development.

a) The first question regards the use and destination of those new goods which are the fruit of scientific knowledge and technological progress. The Holy Father affirms that these new goods also have a universal destination, for which the property of these goods — commonly called intellectual property — must have, as any other property, a function of social character. It concerns goods that must be at the service of primary human needs, within a juridical framework of international co-responsibility which liberates enormous potentialities, with the toppling of barriers and monopolies.

b) The second question addressed by the Holy Father is one related to so-called public goods, goods which all citizens enjoy automatically without having made precise choices and which are however expressions of common interests. The Holy Father names some of these: “We need but think of the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace and security, concern for climate change and disease control. The international community must respond to these interests with a broader network of juridical accords aimed at regulating the use of public goods and inspired by universal principles of fairness and solidarity” (No. 7).

c) The third question put forward by the Holy Father is the fight against poverty, which remains the principle objective of the action of the international community at the outset of this millennium and which the Church must confront from the perspective of another principle of social doctrine, preferential love for the poor.

In addressing the dramatic problem of poverty, the Holy Father deals with three very concrete knots which need to be untied right away.

1) The first knot to untie regards the foreign debt of poor countries. The Holy Father recognizes the progress made, but, at the same time, he must observe with disappointment that “the question has not yet been adequately resolved” (No. 8). After the engaging campaign on foreign debt conducted personally by the Holy Father before and during the Jubilee Year of 2000, it seems that the debt question has faded, unresolved, into oblivion. This is not so for Pope John Paul II who, with tenacity and determination, has revived it, putting it at the center of all agendas that note the moral urgency of commitments for the fight against poverty.

2) The fight against poverty also entails a renewed international commitment in financing for development, “the only really effective means of enabling States to deal with the grave problem of poverty” (No. 9). After having asked for moral and economic mobilization, the Holy Father addresses two particular questions: the first regarding Official Development Assistance (ODA) — accompanied with the call to respect the commitments already made to give 0.7% of GNP to development — and the second regards new proposals for the financing of development, which are very much encouraged to move from plans to concrete actions. In discussing these themes, the Holy Father offers all of his support and encouragement, along with that of the entire Church to the many Catholic aid and development agencies for their valuable work in these very dramatic fields to combat misery and poverty.

3) At the center of the fight against poverty, with a pressing call for the exercise of a new creativity in charity, the Holy Father places the African continent, blocked in its development by many difficult problems; armed conflicts, pandemic diseases, conditions of misery, political instability and social insecurity. The section of the Papal Message on Africa has expressions typical of solemn language which reveal the moral awareness concerning historical questions crucial for the future of humanity. It is worthwhile to read from this section at length: “These are tragic situations which call for a radically new direction for Africa: there is a need to create new forms of solidarity, at bilateral and multilateral levels, through a more decisive commitment on the part of all, with complete conviction that the well-being of the peoples of Africa is an indispensable condition for the attainment of the universal common good. May the peoples of Africa become the protagonists of their own destiny and their own cultural, civil, social and economic development! May Africa cease to be a mere recipient of aid, and become a responsible agent of convinced and productive sharing! Achieving this goal calls for a new political culture, especially in the area of international cooperation” (n. 10).

The road ahead for reaching the solution to the problems of Africa is one that recalls respect for the promises related to Official Development Assistance, a substantial alleviating of the weight of international debt, the opening of markets and an increase in commercial exchange. Recalling the teaching of “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis” (cf., No. 17), the Holy Father affirms that “development either becomes shared in common by every part of the world or it undergoes a process of regression even in zones marked by constant progress.”


In the face of terrible scenarios drawn from the presence of evil, the Holy Father invites everyone to raise their eyes to God who, in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, has rendered possible for all the victory of good over evil. The universality of evil is conquered by the universality of Christ’s salvation. From this perspective, “based on the certainty that evil will not prevail, Christians nourish an invincible hope which sustains their efforts to promote justice and peace … as well as firm confidence in the possibility of building a better world” (No. 11). Recalling the initial accents of the message where the moral good is presented in its bonds to love, the Holy Father affirms that “when good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails. Christians … should show by their lives that love is the only force capable of bringing fulfillment to persons and societies, the only force capable of directing the course of history in the way of goodness and peace” (No. 12). The road of charity and the road of peace have in the Eucharistic Sacrament the place of their full truth and the source of their success. In the year dedicated to the Eucharist, the Holy Father closes his Message presenting the social bonds of the supreme sacrament of love: “by sharing in the one bread and the one cup, we come to realize that we are ‘God’s family’ and that together we can make our own effective contribution to building a world based on the values of freedom, justice and peace” (No. 12).

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1. St
. Augustine, “De Civitate Dei,” XII, 6.

2. Augustine affirms this proposition: “Two loves, therefore, formed two cities: the love of self, carried to the contempt of God, created the earthly city; the love of God, carried to the contempt of self, created the heavenly city,” “De Civitate Dei,” XIV, 28.

[Original text in English]

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