COVENTRY, England, JUNE 19, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Here is the text of an address given Monday by Archbishop Agostino Marchetto, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers, at a Conference of European University Chaplaincies that took place at Coventry University. The conference, which began Monday and ended Friday, focused on the theme “Peace, Reconciliation and Social Justice.”
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Distinguished Chairperson and participants.
The Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People is grateful to the organizing Committee of this conference for facilitating its participation through an observer. It is a sign of the good will of the Holy See to take part in certain efforts, made by Christian Churches and ecclesial Communities to promote social justice, peace and reconciliation throughout the world.
The theme, chosen by the organizing Committee, for this Conference is important and finds proper applications also within the context of education and educational institutions such as universities. Intellectual, spiritual and human formation of young minds and hearts is so fundamental to create a better world! In this respect, may be you are aware that our Pontifical Council has a sector dedicated to the international students.
To begin, may I recall that the Magisterium of the Catholic Church has always stressed the possibility to have peace through social justice and reconciliation. Pope Benedict XVI, in his very first message for the World Day of Peace in 2006 (celebrated by the Catholic Church worldwide on the 1st January each year), posed the question that ‘whenever there is a loss of fidelity to the transcendent order, and a loss of respect for that ”grammar” of dialogue which is the universal moral law written on human hearts, whenever the integral development of the person and the protection of his/her fundamental rights are hindered or denied, whenever countless people are forced to endure intolerable injustices and inequalities, how can we hope that the good of peace will be realized?' Pope Benedict XVI referred to the Pastoral Constitution of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council on the Church in the Modern World,
Gaudium et Spes, which states that mankind will not succeed in ”building a truly more human world for everyone, everywhere on earth, unless all people are renewed in spirit and converted to the truth of peace”. The Pope wrote that ‘peace is an irrepressible yearning present in the heart of each person, regardless of his or her particular cultural identity. The truth of peace calls upon everyone to cultivate productive and sincere relationships; it encourages them to seek out and to follow the paths of forgiveness and reconciliation….
In fact, the venerable Pope John Paul II, in his Message for the World Day of Peace in 2002, practically focused on the same theme: No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness. He upheld that ‘the shattered order of the human society today cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness. Since human justice is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and egoism of individuals and groups, it must include and, as it were, be completed by the forgiveness which heals and rebuilds troubled human relations from their foundations. Justice and forgiveness are both essential to such healing'.
Pope John Paul II also wrote that ‘forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil. The measure of such a decision is the love of God who draws us to himself in spite of our sin. Forgiveness therefore has a divine source and criterion. Forgiveness, as a fully human act, is above all a personal initiative. The ability to forgive lies at the very basis of the idea of a future society marked by justice and solidarity. Peace is essential for development, but true peace is made possible only through forgiveness and reconciliation'.
As far as terrorist activities are concerned, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church upholds that ‘international cooperation must also include a courageous and resolute political, diplomatic and economic commitment to relieving situations of oppression and marginalization which facilitate the designs of terrorism. The recruitment of terrorists in fact is easier in situations where rights are trampled upon and injustices tolerated over a long period of time’. In this regard, interreligious understanding and cooperation is also very important. Pope John Paul II did not fail in fact to underline the importance of the weighty responsibility of the religious leaders in the process of promoting a culture of forgiveness and reconciliation. He stressed on the need for ecumenical and interreligious cooperation to work together to eliminate social and cultural causes of terrorism.
Fighting poverty to build peace
Pope Benedict XVI in his message for the World Day of Peace in 2009, underlined this importance of fighting poverty in order to build peace, because poverty is often a contributory factor or a compounding element in conflicts. These conflicts, in turn, fuel further tragic situations of poverty. Of course nowadays, fighting poverty requires attentive consideration of the complex phenomenon of globalization. Certainly globalization on its own is incapable of building peace, and in many cases, it actually creates divisions and conflicts. Globalization should be rather guided as a good opportunity to achieve something important in the fight against poverty, and to place at the disposal of justice and peace resources which were scarcely conceivable previously. In fact, one of the most important ways of building peace is through a form of globalization directed towards the interests of the whole human family (we call it ‘universal common good’). In order to govern globalization, however, there needs to be a strong sense of global solidarity between rich and poor countries, as well as within individual countries, including affluent ones. All of this would indicate that the fight against poverty requires cooperation both on the economic level and on the legal level, so as to allow the international community, and especially poorer countries, to identify and implement coordinated strategies to deal with the problems, thereby providing an effective legal framework for the economy.
The Students statement, released by the Young Catholic Students Movement of Germany, on the occasion of the World Day of Youth in Cologne in 2005, states that ‘education should lead to reflection about the society and responsibilities towards fellow human beings and the world. Autonomy, freedom, and development of each individual, especially in relation to solidarity, devotion for justice and peace need to be a central focus of education. Therefore complete or integral education is essential, it should enable students to become responsible for themselves and the society they live in'.
The mission of the Catholic Church entails a very special solicitude and consideration towards the youth and young students because of their given state of very particular and crucial intellectual, spiritual, socio-cultural formation. This year the Catholic Church celebrates the 25th anniversary of the inauguration of the World Youth Day in response to the desire of Pope John Paul II. In 1987, he underlined the role of the young generation in the fast changing world, saying that the ‘building of a civilization of love requires strong and persevering characters, ready for self-sacrifice and anxious to open up new paths of human coexistence by overcoming divisions and the various forms of materialism. This is a responsibility of the young people of today who will be the men and women of tomorrow'.
Pope Benedict XVI, in his message to the youth in 2007, invited them to “dare to love” and not to desire anything less for their lif
e than a love that is strong and beautiful: love that is capable of making the whole of their existence a joyful undertaking of giving themselves as a gift to God and their brothers and sisters, in imitation of the One who vanquished hatred and death forever through love (cf Rev 5:13). Love is the only force capable of changing the heart of the human person and of all humanity, by making fruitful the relations between men and women, between rich and poor, between cultures and civilisations.
Pope John Paul II in any case urged the youth to prepare themselves for the future. He wrote that ‘the present difficulties are really a test of our humanity… Difficulties are a challenge to all; hope is an imperative for all. But …I want to draw your attention to the role that youth is called upon to play in the endeavour to bring about peace…we must be aware that the future of peace and therefore the future of humanity have been entrusted, in a special way, to the fundamental moral choices that a new generation of men and women are being called upon to make. In a very few years, the young people of today will hold responsibility for family life and for the life of nations, for the common good of all and for peace'.
Pope John Paul II in fact was convinced that the future far lies in the hands of the youth. The future of peace lies in their hearts. To construct history, as they can and must, they have to free history from the false paths it is pursuing. To do this, the youth must have a deep trust in man and a deep trust in the grandeur of the human vocation – a vocation to be pursued with respect for truth and for the dignity and inviolable rights of the human person. Pope Wojtyla felt the feeling of the modern youth indeed. He said that he saw them being touched by the hunger for peace; that they are troubled by so much injustice around them and sense overwhelming danger in the gigantic stockpiles of arms and in the threats of nuclear war; that they suffer when they see widespread hunger and malnutrition and are concerned about the environment today and for the coming generations; that they are threatened by unemployment and many already without work and without the prospect of meaningful employment and are upset by the large number of people who are oppressed politically and spiritually and who cannot enjoy the exercise of their basic human rights as individuals or as a community. All this can give rise to a feeling that life has little meaning. In this situation, some may be tempted to take flight from responsibility: in the fantasy worlds of alcohol and drugs, in short-lived sexual relationships without commitment to marriage and family, in indifference, in cynicism and even in violence. Pope John Paul II invited them therefore be to themselves on guard against the fraud of a world that wants to exploit or misdirect their energetic and powerful search for happiness and meaning. He invited them not to avoid the search for the true answers to the questions that confront them.
May I add that there are number of Catholic student movements or movements dedicated to cater to their wholesome formation also in the field of Peace, Reconciliation and Social Justice. To start with, I wish to mention the
International Federation of Catholic Universities [IFCU] – 1948
The first moves to create a federation of Catholic universities were made in 1924, thanks to the work of the Catholic Universities of Milan (Italy) and Nijmegen (Netherlands). What was then called the Foederatio Universitatum Catholicarum was formally established in 1948. As an NGO, it has consultative status with UNESCO and the Council of Europe. IFCU aims to contribute to the advancement of knowledge and the construction of a more just and more humane world in the light of the Christian faith, based on the Gospel. The Federation pursues this by promoting joint reflection on the mission of universities, and through active cooperation between Catholic higher education and research establishments. The Federation of European Catholic Universities or, in French, Fédération des Universités Catholiques Européennes (FUCE), was created in 1991 as a regional organisation of IFCU. Another organization to be remembered is the International Young Catholic Students [IYCS] – 1946
IYCS grew in the spirit of the Specialised Catholic Action Movements that were inspired by Joseph Cardijn (the founder of the Young Christian Workers in Belgium) in the late 1920’s. It was in the 1970s that close cooperation with the International Movement of Catholic Students (IMCS), led to the creation of the IYCS-IMCS International Coordination, and the drafting of a joint pastoral Project.
IYCS sets out to guide students to become architects and agents of social change, following in the footsteps of Jesus Christ and bearing witness to the Gospel values. The pedagogy used by the Movement, based on the method of “revision of life” (see, judge and act), enables students to become aware of various situations, to analyse them critically in the light of the Gospel and the faith, to undertake a commitment to the pursuit of justice and peace, for the comprehensive growth of individuals and for sustainable development. IYCS performs its tasks by cooperating with other organisations in the same field, supporting the establishment of student Movements pursuing the same goals, and fostering dialogue, exchange of experiences and mutual assistance between the member Movements. There are some 90 affiliated Movements in 104 countries: Africa (39), Asia (18), Europe (19), Middle East (5), North America (2), Oceania (1), and South America (20).
It’s a Movement engaged in Global Issues, playing an active role within the United Nations (UN) system. IYCS have consultative status with the UN Economic & Social Council (ECOSOC) since 1998 and operational relations with UNESCO. IYCS makes interventions and advocates particularly on issues concerning youth, education, human rights, development and gender. Finally, may I remember MIEC-Pax Romana (International Movement of Catholic Students-Pax Romana) which was founded in Switzerland in 1921 and MIIC-Pax Romana (International Movement of Catholic Intellectuals-Pax Romana) which was historically founded by the members of the International Movement of Catholic Students in 1941 in Rome.
MIEC-Pax Romana combines over 80 different national associations, federations or movements of students on six continents. Pax Romana is an open forum for intellectual sharing and dialogue among different cultures, generations and professions; a social movement for empowerment, advocacy and solidarity for a peaceful, equitable and sustainable world; a global network of ideas, insights and commitment based on a Christian vision and mission. It is also an International Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) recognized by the United Nations System and the Council of Europe, which is active in international civil society networks such as the Conference of Non-Governmental Organizations in consultative relationship with the United Nations (CONGO).
In the area of peace building and conflict resolution, Pax Romana is dedicated to promote a culture of peace and non-violence among students; to organise Peace Education and Conflict Resolution Workshops, Global Advocacy on justice for poor and vulnerable people, and to develop ecumenical and inter-religious understanding among students. It promotes intercultural, inter-religious and intellectual dialogue, protection of fundamental human rights for all, including socio-economic rights; critical and constructive dialogue and involvement in socio-political issues through the empowerment of civil society actors and the strengthening the presence of the laity in Church & Society. It is always committed to eradication of student poverty and integral education.
May I conclude stating that in the search for peace through justice, reconciliation and forgiveness, young hearts and minds are indispensably important. Student generation is in a privileged terrace in their institutional structu
res for developing healthy human-interactions, sound ethical, moral and social formation in order to become architects and protagonists of true peace that the world is yearning for today in spite of everything. Our wish is that the presentations, discussions and inputs of this Conference would serve the university chaplaincies to better organize their programmes to awaken in the young university and higher education students this desire to work for a world of peace through justice, forgiveness and reconciliation.
Archbishop Agostino Marchetto
Secretary of the Pontifical Council for Migrants and Travellers