by Ruth Moraes
As Popes have done for over half a century, Pope Francis celebrated the World Day of Peace for 2022 on 1 January. In his Angelus address, Pope Francis emphasised the fact that peace is both a gift from God and the result of a shared commitment among human beings.
His address echoed some of his thoughts in his Message for the 55th World Day of Peace in which he recognised “the path of peace…remains sadly distant from the lives of many men and women thus from our human family”. Among the reasons for a lack of peace Pope Francis referred to the pandemic, disease, environmental degradation, hunger and an economy based on individualism instead of solidarity. In these situations, he said, the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor are still crying out for justice and peace which too often seem out of reach.
In his address, Pope Francis called peace a gift from God because “We can truly build peace only if we have peace in our hearts, only if we receive it from the Prince of Peace.” But in recognising that such an attitude could lead to complacency, Pope Francis was clear that achieving peace demands concrete actions on the part of all human beings, which need to begin with each one taking the first step.
The Message for the World Day of Peace also expressed his hope about how everyone can contribute to a better world: “All can work together to build a more peaceful world, starting from the hearts of individuals and relationships in the family, then within society and with the environment, and all the way up to relationships between peoples and nations.” (World Day of Peace Message, 1). At the Angelus, he encouraged everyone to build peace by being attentive to the least, by promoting justice and extinguishing the fire of hatred.
In contemplating the image of Mary holding Jesus, Pope Francis was reminded of the young mothers and their children of today fleeing wars and famine or waiting in refugee camps as some of the people that the world had forgot and who are some of “the least” today. In abhorring the violence inflicted on women, he also exhorted everyone to promote mothers and to protect women, declaring that “To hurt a woman is to insult God, who from a woman took on our humanity.”
In his homily, Pope Francis reminded us that Jesus was born small and in poverty, in circumstances similar to the marginalised, the rejected and those who do not count in the eyes of the world today. These words help us to recall Christ’s own “as you did it to the least of these, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:40)
In gazing upon the Prince of Peace who was laid in a manger, we should all be inspired with his tenderness and courage. The hope is that by making ourselves available to others in service that we will be able to “mend the threads of a world torn apart by war and violence” and build one of peace instead.