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Pope stresses education, environment in message for World Day of Peace

December 21, 2021

In his annual message for the World Day of Peace, Pope Francis calls for an decrease in military spending, greater investment in education, and care for the environment.

The World Day of Peace is observed on January 1, on which date the Pontiff formally delivers his message to the ambassadors of the Vatican diplomatic corps. But the text of that message is traditionally released a few weeks earlier. This year’s papal message, made public December 21, is dedicated to the theme: “Dialogue between generations, education and work: tools for building lasting peace.”

At the start of the message, the Pope cites Pope Paul VI in saying that “integral human development” is the path to peace. So his focus is development, and he speaks at length about education, the environment, and especially the worldwide response to the Covid epidemic, as he outlines a plan for peaceful development.

At a Vatican press conference introducing the Pope’s message, Father Fabio Baggio, the undersecretary of the dicastery for Integral Human Development, acknowledged that this year’s text “departs slightly from the traditional opposition between peace and war.” The Pope says little about warfare, although he asserts that “the deafening noise of war and conflict is intensifying.” Instead he calls attention to other problems:

While diseases of pandemic proportions are spreading, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are worsening, the tragedy of hunger and thirst is increasing, and an economic model based on individualism rather than on solidary sharing continues to prevail.

To remedy the situation the Pope suggests three steps: dialogue between generations, education, and labor. These, he says, are the “three indispensable elements for making possible the creation of a social covenant.”

In calling for a dialogue between generations, Pope Francis points to the loneliness that afflicts the elderly, and the uncertainty of the young about the future of the earth. At the Vatican press conference, Sister Alessandra Smerilli, the interim secretary of the dicastery for Integral Human Development, said that young people reject the “absurd conflict that our economic system has declared on the natural environment.” She explained the Pope’s focus by saying that he was concerned not only with wars between nations but also with “the war that humans have for a long time waged against nature, against mother earth, and against other living species.”

In his discussion of education, the Pope argued that education and training are the keys to human development, and “the foundations of a cohesive civil society capable of generating hope, prosperity, and progress.” He said that “there has been a significant reduction worldwide in funding for education and training,” and lamented that at the same time government funding for weaponry has increased.

A Reuters account of the papal message noted that while the Pontiff reported a drop in funding for education, “He did not give any sources for the statistics.” The message included 18 footnotes, of which 16 referred back to previous statements by Pope Francis.


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