Centre for Dialogue and Prayer in Oświęcim

2004-01-01 John Paul II - Message for the the World Day of Peace 2004

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Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II
For the Celebration of the World Day of Peace
1 Janu
ar y 2004

An Ever Timely Commitment: Teaching Peace

My words
ar e addressed to you, the Leaders of the nations, who have the duty of promoting peace!

To you, Jurists, committed to tracing paths to peaceful agreement, prep
ar ing conventions and treaties which strengthen international legality!

To you, Teachers of the young, who on all continents work tirelessly to form consciences in the ways of understanding and dialogue!

And to you too, men and women tempted to turn to the unacceptable means of terrorism and thus compromise at its root the very cause for which you
ar e fighting!

All of you, he
ar the humble appeal of the Successor of Peter who cries out: today too, at the beginning of the New Ye ar 2004, peace remains possible. And if peace is possible, it is also a duty!

A practical initiative

1. My first Message for the World Day of Peace, in the beginning of Janu
ar y 1979, was centered on the theme: "To Reach Peace, Teach Peace."

That New Ye
ar ' s Message followed in the path traced by Pope Paul VI of venerable memory, who had wished to celebrate on Janu ar y 1 each ye ar a World Day of Prayer for Peace. I recall the words of the late Pontiff for the New Ye ar 1968: "It would be Our desire, then, that this celebration take place each ye ar as a sign of hope and promise, at the beginning of the calend ar which measures and guides the journey of human life through time, in order that Peace, with its just and salut ar y equilibrium, will dominate the unfolding of history yet to come."(1)

Faithful to the wishes expressed by my venerable Predecessor on the Chair of Peter, each ye
ar I have continued this noble tradition by dedicating the first day of the civil ye ar to reflection and to prayer for peace in the world.

In the twenty-five ye
ar s of Pontificate which the Lord has thus f ar granted me, I have not failed to speak out before the Church and the world, inviting believers and all persons of good will to take up the cause of peace and to help bring about this fundamental good, thereby assuring the world a better future, one m ar ked by peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.

Once more this ye
ar I feel bound to invite all men and women, on every continent, to celebrate a new World Day of Peace. Humanity needs now more than ever to rediscover the path of concord, overwhelmed as it is by selfishness and hatred, by the thirst for power and the lust for vengeance.

The science of peace

2. The eleven Messages addressed to the world by Pope Paul VI progressively mapped out the path to be followed in attaining the ideal of peace. Slowly but surely the great Pontiff set forth the v
ar ious chapters of a true "science of peace". It can be helpful to recall the themes of the Messages bequeathed to us by Pope Paul VI for this occasion.(2) Each of these Messages continues to be timely today. Indeed, before the tragedy of the w ar s which at the beginning of the Third Millennium ar e still causing bloodshed throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, they take on at times the tone of prophetic admonishments.

A primer of peace

3. For my p
ar t, throughout these twenty-five ye ar s of my Pontificate, I have sought to advance along the path m ar ked out by my venerable Predecessor. At the dawn of each new ye ar I have invited people of good will to reflect, in the light of reason and of faith, on different aspects of an orderly coexistence.

The result has been a synthesis of teaching about peace which is a kind of primer on this fundamental theme: a primer easy to understand by those who
ar e well-disposed, but at the same time quite demanding for anyone concerned for the future of humanity.(3)

The v
ar ious colors of the prism of peace have now been amply illustrated. What remains now is to work to ensure that the ideal of a peaceful coexistence, with its specific requirements, will become p ar t of the consciousness of individuals and peoples. We Christians see the commitment to educate ourselves and others to peace as something at the very he ar t of our religion. For Christians, in fact, to proclaim peace is to announce Christ who is "our peace" (Eph 2:14); it is to announce his Gospel, which is a "Gospel of peace" (Eph 6:15); it is to call all people to the beatitude of being "peacemakers" (cf. Mt 5:9).

Teaching peace

4. In my Message for the World Day of Peace on 1 Janu
ar y 1979 I made this appeal: To Reach Peace, Teach Peace. Today that appeal is more urgent than ever, because men and women, in the face of the tragedies which continue to afflict humanity, ar e tempted to yield to fatalism, as if peace were an unattainable ideal.

The Church, on the other hand, has always taught and continues today to teach a very simple axiom: peace is possible. Indeed, the Church does not tire of repeating that peace is a duty. It must be built on the four pill
ar s indicated by Blessed John XXIII in his Encyclical "Pacem in Terris": truth, justice, love and freedom. A duty is thus imposed upon all those who love peace: that of teaching these ideals to new generations, in order to prep ar e a better future for all mankind.

Teaching legality

5. In this task of teaching peace, there is a p
ar ticul ar ly urgent need to lead individuals and peoples to respect the international order and to respect the commitments assumed by the Authorities which legitimately represent them. Peace and international law ar e closely linked to each another: law favors peace.

From the very dawn of civilization, developing human communities sought to establish agreements and pacts which would avoid the
ar bitr ar y use of force and enable them to seek a peaceful solution of any controversies which might ar ise. Alongside the legal systems of the individual peoples there progressively grew up another set of norms which came to be known as "ius gentium" (the law of the nations). With the passage of time, this body of law gradually expanded and was refined in the light of the historical experiences of the different peoples.

This process was greatly accelerated with the birth of modern States. From the sixteenth century on, jurists, philosophers and theologians were engaged in developing the v
ar ious headings of international law and in grounding it in the fundamental postulates of the natural law. This process led with increasing force to the formulation of universal principles which ar e prior to and superior to the internal law of States, and which take into account the unity and the common vocation of the human family.

Central among all these is surely the principle that "pacta sunt servanda": accords freely signed must be honored. This is the pivotal and exceptionless presupposition of every relationship between responsible contracting p
ar ties. The violation of this principle necess ar ily leads to a situation of illegality and consequently to friction and disputes which would not fail to have lasting negative repercussions. It is appropriate to recall this fundamental rule, especially at times when there is a temptation to appeal to the law of force rather than to the force of law.

One of these moments was surely the drama which humanity experienced during the Second World W
ar : an abyss of violence, destruction and death unlike anything previously known.
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