The Message for the World Day of Peace has just been published, and we will celebrate it in January 2014, signed by Pope Francis. This year’s motto is “Fraternity, the foundation and pathway to peace”.
The Messages for the World Day of Peace are always an important tool for the diffusion, development and update of the Social Doctrine of the Church, thus, for the evangelization of social reality. For this, it would be important that these messages were read and meditated by all believers, analysed and discussed in group by all of the Christian communities, and that messages would enable Church to inspire a constant desire of opening and going out towards society (as pope Francis expressed in his recent exhortation “Evangelii Gaudium”).
In his first Message for Peace, Francis takes up again and continues the social teaching of his predecessors, emphasising some of the thesis and worries that have already become central concepts of his Pontificate.
The central statement of the message is very clear: the building of a fair society and of a stable and lasting peace is impossible without the conscience of fraternity. Fraternity is the conscience of a vital aspect of the human being, as it is his relational character that makes us to treat every person like a true brother and a true sister. The source and the basic space to generate this conscience is the family, called to “spread its love to the world around it”.
However, in order to refute inadequate or insufficient understandings about fraternity that do not permit the generation of true bonds, Francis identifies the authentic bonds of fraternity. Fraternity comes from the certainty and recognition of a transcendent Father common to every human, as last foundation; in other words, the Fatherhood of God that loves every human being in a specific, punctual and extraordinary way (Mt. 6,25-30). This love of God, once welcomed, becomes the most formidable means of fraternity, transforming our lives and relationships with others, opening us to solidarity and to reciprocity. Fraternity has been regenerated in and by Jesus Christ through his death and resurrection, becoming a new and final principle in order to know ourselves as brothers, sons of the same Father.
For all this, Francis highlights that fraternity is the foundation and pathway for peace. Indeed, fraternity is not only a matter between individuals but it must rule among nations and peoples too and it is manifested in duties of solidarity, social justice and universal charity. Fraternal relations between people and groups and the effective public policies based on fraternity are the adequate way to get over the great hardships of our world condemned by Francis: marginalization, isolation, poverty, the lack of access to basic services, social exclusion, the great income inequalities, the persistent economic and financial crisis, caused by the greed and the impoverishment of human relations. Fraternity is the way to put an end to war, violence and the proliferation of arms. It is the way to beat the selfishness that is socially developed in multiple ways of corruption and organised crime: the heartbreaking drama of drug abuse, labour exploitation, money-laundering, financial speculation, prostitution, the abomination of human trafficking, crimes and abuses against minors, the horror of slavery still present in many parts of the world; the frequently overlooked tragedy of migrants, who are often victims of disgraceful and illegal manipulation, or devastation of natural resources and ongoing pollution, that damage the current human life and that of the future generations.
Fraternity needs to be discovered, loved, experienced, proclaimed and witnessed to. But only love, bestowed as a gift from God, enables us to accept and fully experience fraternity.
Thus, Francis has made a call to discover, love, experiment, announce and testify fraternity, which is only possible with the opening and welcoming of the love bestowed by God. The realism of politics and the economy cannot be reduced to a technical know-how bereft of ideals and of openness to a transcendent dimension, which impoverishes human activity and persons are reduced to objects that can be exploited.
Francis concludes asking Christians to learn how weaving a fabric of fraternal relationships marked by reciprocity, forgiveness and complete self-giving, according to the breadth and the depth of the love of God; offered to humanity by Christ crucified and risen, loving each other as a sign that we are disciples (Jn. 13, 34-45). In this way he calls for “a step forward, a perennial exercise of empathy, of listening to the suffering and the hopes of others”, placing us in an “attitude of service to persons, especially those farthest away and less known”, because the “service is the soul of that fraternity that builds up peace”.
President of the General Commission for Justice and Peace of Spain.