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Pope, in message for World Day of Peace, sees human fraternity as key

Catholic World News - December 12, 2013

In his message for the annual World Day for Peace, Pope Francis writes that human fraternity offers an antidote not only to war but also to poverty, corruption, and environmental damage.

Fraternal feelings, the Pope argues, bind all mankind together and create a sense of solidarity. However, he observes that “contemporary ethical systems remain incapable of producing authentic bonds of fraternity, since a fraternity devoid of reference to a common Father as its ultimate foundation is unable to endure.” The Pope writes that “human fraternity is regenerated in and by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection.”

The papal message—entitled “Fraternity as the Foundation of Peace and as the Pathway to Peace”—will be formally issued on January 1, 2014: the 47th World Day for Peace. The release of this year’s message has a strong Marian theme: the document is dated December 8, the feast of the Immaculate Conception; it was made public December 12, the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe; and it will be formally issued on January 1, the feast of Mary, Mother of God.

Pope Francis begins the message with a simple touch: “In this, my first Message for the World Day of Peace, I wish to offer to everyone, individuals and peoples, my best wishes for a life filled with joy and hope.” He quickly goes on to say that a good life is marked by friendly ties, since we are by nature social creatures.

However, the fraternal bonds that should come naturally are damaged by human failings, the Pope writes. He remarks that Cain’s murder of Abel was the first clear breakdown in fraternal spirit, and human history since that time has been sadly characterized by failures.

Today, the Pope writes, fraternal feelings are suppressed by a “’globalization of indifference” which makes us slowly inured to the suffering of others and closed in on ourselves.” He writes:

In many parts of the world, there seems to be no end to grave offenses against fundamental human rights, especially the right to life and the right to religious freedom. The tragic phenomenon of human trafficking, in which the unscrupulous prey on the lives and the desperation of others, is but one unsettling example of this. Alongside overt armed conflicts are the less visible but no less cruel wars fought in the economic and financial sectors with means which are equally destructive of lives, families and businesses.

The Pope adds:

New ideologies, characterized by rampant individualism, egocentrism and materialistic consumerism, weaken social bonds, fuelling that “throw away” mentality which leads to contempt for, and the abandonment of, the weakest and those considered “useless.”

Calling for a recovery of fraternal feelings, the Pope says that the results of a strong sense of solidarity would include the elimination of poverty (and the easing of “relative poverty,” since the wealthy would want to share their goods), the end of warfare, the disappearance of government corruption and organized crime, and the protection of the natural environment.

At a Vatican press conference presenting the Pope’s message, Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, released a statement by Cardinal Peter Kodwo Turkson, the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, commenting on the papal document. Cardinal Turkson—who was in Johannesburg, representing the Pope at the memorial services for Nelson Mandela—remarked that the deceased African leader offered an example of fraternity in action. During his years in prison, the cardinal said, Mandela “overcame the temptation to seek revenge. He emerged from prison with a supreme message of reconciliation.”

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