In this Year-end issue, we bring you the words from His Holiness Pope John Paul II, released on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception this year for his Message to the world on January 1, 2000 on the occasion of the World Day of Peace.
MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II FOR THE CELEBRATION OF WORLD DAY OF PEACE 2000
"PEACE ON EARTH TO THOSE WHOM GOD LOVES!"
1. This is the proclamation of the Angels which greeted the birth of Jesus Christ two thousand years ago (cf. Lk 2:14), and
which we will hear re-echoing joyfully on the holy night of Christmas, when the Great Jubilee will be solemnly inaugurated.
At the dawn of the new Millennium, we wish to propose once more the message of hope which comes from the stable of
Bethlehem: God loves all men and women on earth and gives them the hope of a new era, an era of peace. His love, fully
revealed in the Incarnate Son, is the foundation of universal peace. When welcomed in the depths of the human heart, this
love reconciles people with God and with themselves, renews human relationships and stirs that desire for brotherhood
capable of banishing the temptation of violence and war.
The Great Jubilee is inseparably linked to this message of love and reconciliation, a message which gives voice to the truest
aspirations of humanity today.
2. Looking to a year so filled with meaning, I once more offer everyone my good wishes for peace. To everyone I affirm that
peace is possible. It needs to be implored from God as his gift, but it also needs to be built day by day with his help, through
works of justice and love.
To be sure, the problems which make the path to peace difficult and often discouraging are many and complex, but peace is a
need deeply rooted in the heart of every man and woman. The will to seek peace must not therefore be allowed to weaken.
This seeking must be based on the awareness that humanity, however much marred by sin, hatred and violence, is called by
God to be a single family. This divine plan needs to be recognized and carried out through the search for harmonious
relationships between individuals and peoples, in a culture where openness to the Transcendent, the promotion of the human
person and respect for the world of nature are shared by all.
This is the message of Christmas, this is the message of the Jubilee, this is my hope at the beginning of a new Millennium.
War is a defeat for humanity
3. In the century we are leaving behind, humanity has been sorely tried by an endless and horrifying sequence of wars,
conflicts, genocides and "ethnic cleansings" which have caused unspeakable suffering: millions and millions of victims,
families and countries destroyed, an ocean of refugees, misery, hunger, disease, underdevelopment and the loss of immense
resources. At the root of so much suffering there lies a logic of supremacy fuelled by the desire to dominate and exploit
others, by ideologies of power or totalitarian utopias, by crazed nationalisms or ancient tribal hatreds. At times brutal and
systematic violence, aimed at the very extermination or enslavement of entire peoples and regions, has had to be countered
by armed resistance.
The twentieth century bequeaths to us above all else a warning: wars are often the cause of further wars because they fuel
deep hatreds, create situations of injustice and trample upon people's dignity and rights. Wars generally do not resolve the
problems for which they are fought and therefore, in addition to causing horrendous damage, they prove ultimately futile. War
is a defeat for humanity. Only in peace and through peace can respect for human dignity and its inalienable rights be
guaranteed. (1. Cf. John Paul II, Message for the World Day of Peace 1999, 1.)
4. Against the backdrop of war in the twentieth century, humanity's honour has been preserved by those who have spoken
and worked on behalf of peace.
We cannot fail to remember the countless men and women who have contributed to the affirmation and the solemn
proclamation of human rights, and who have helped to defeat the various forms of totalitarianism, to put an end to colonialism,
to develop democracy and to establish the great international organizations. Those who built their lives on the value of
non-violence have given us a luminous and prophetic example. Their example of integrity and loyalty, often to the point of
martyrdom, has provided us with rich and splendid lessons.
Among those who have acted in the name of peace we should not forget those men and women whose dedication has
brought about great advances in every field of science and technology, making it possible to overcome dreadful diseases and
to enhance and prolong human life.
Nor can I fail to mention my own venerable Predecessors who have guided the Church in the twentieth century. By their lofty
teaching and their tireless efforts they have given direction to the Church in the promotion of a culture of peace. Emblematic of
this many-sided effort was the timely and prophetic intuition of Pope Paul VI, who on 8 December 1967 instituted the World
Day of Peace. With the passing of the years, the World Day of Peace has become more firmly established as a fruitful
experience of reflection and shared vision for the future.
Called to be one family
5. "Peace on earth to those whom God loves!" The Gospel greeting prompts a heart-felt question: will the new century be one
of peace and a renewed sense of brotherhood between individuals and peoples? We cannot of course foresee the future.
But we can set forth one certain principle: there will be peace only to the extent that humanity as a whole rediscovers its
fundamental calling to be one family, a family in which the dignity and rights of individuals - whatever their status, race or
religion - are accepted as prior and superior to any kind of difference or distinction.
This recognition can give the world as it is today - marked by the process of globalization - a soul, a meaning and a direction.
Globalization, for all its risks, also offers exceptional and promising opportunities, precisely with a view to enabling humanity to
become a single family, built on the values of justice, equity and solidarity.
6. For this to happen, a complete change of perspective will be needed: it is no longer the well-being of any one political, racial
or cultural community that must prevail, but rather the good of humanity as a whole. The pursuit of the common good of a
single political community cannot be in conflict with the common good of humanity, expressed in the recognition of and
respect for human rights sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948. It is necessary, then, to abandon
ideas and practices - often determined by powerful economic interests - which subordinate every other value to the absolute
claims of the nation and the State. In this new perspective, the political, cultural and institutional divisions and distinctions by
which humanity is ordered and organized are legitimate in so far as they are compatible with membership in the one human
family, and with the ethical and legal requirements which stem from this.
Crimes against humanity
7. This principle has an immensely important consequence: an offense against human rights is an offense against the
conscience of humanity as such, an offence against humanity itself. The duty of protecting these rights therefore extends
beyond the geographical and political borders within which they are violated. Crimes against humanity cannot be considered
an internal affair of a nation. Here an important step forward was taken with the establishment of an International Criminal
Court to try such crimes, regardless of the place or circumstances in which they are committed. We must thank God that in the
conscience of peoples and nations there is a growing conviction that human rights have no borders, because they are
universal and indivisible.
8. In our time, the number of wars between States has diminished. This fact, albeit consoling, appears in a very different light
if we consider the armed conflicts taking place within States. Sadly these are quite numerous on practically every continent,
and often very violent. For the most part, they are rooted in long-standing historical motives of an ethnic, tribal or even
religious character, to which must be added nowadays other ideological, social and economic causes.
These internal conflicts, usually waged through the large-scale use of small-calibre weapons and so-called "light" arms - arms
which in are fact extraordinarily lethal - often have grave consequences which spill over the borders of the country in
question, involving outside interests and responsibilities. While it is true that the extreme complexity of these conflicts makes it
very difficult to understand and evaluate the causes and interests at play, one fact cannot be disputed: it is the civilian
population which suffers most tragically, since neither ordinary laws nor the laws of warfare are respected in practice. Far
from being protected, civilians are often the prime target of the conflicting forces, when they themselves are not directly
involved in armed activity as a result of a perverse spiral which makes them both victims and assassins of other civilians.
All too many and horrifying are the macabre scenarios in which innocent children, women, and unarmed older people have
become intentional targets in the bloody conflicts of our time; too many, in fact, for us not to feel that the moment has come to
change direction, decisively and with a great sense of responsibility.
The right to humanitarian assistance
9. In every case, in the face of such tragic and complex situations and contrary to all alleged "reasons" of war, there is a
need to affirm the preeminent value of humanitarian law and the consequent duty to guarantee the right to humanitarian aid to
suffering civilians and refugees.
The recognition of these rights and their effective implementation must not be allowed to depend on the interests of any of the
parties in conflict. On the contrary, there is a duty to identify all the means, institutional or otherwise, which can best serve in
a practical way to meet humanitarian objectives. The moral and political legitimacy of these rights is in fact based on the
principle that the good of the human person comes before all else and stands above all human institutions.
10. Here I wish to restate my conviction that, in the face of modern armed conflicts, negotiation between parties, with
appropriate attempts at mediation and pacification by international and regional bodies, is of the greatest importance.
Negotiation is necessary in order to prevent such conflicts and to end them once they have broken out, restoring peace
through an equitable settlement of the rights and interests involved.
This conviction concerning the positive role played by mediation and pacification agencies should be extended to the
non-governmental humanitarian organizations and religious bodies which, discreetly and without ulterior motives, promote
peace between opposed groups and help to overcome age-old rivalries, reconcile enemies, and open the way to a new and
shared future. While honouring their noble dedication to the cause of peace, I wish to remember with profound esteem all who
have given their lives so that others might live: I lift up my prayers to God for them and I invite other believers to do the same.
11. Clearly, when a civilian population risks being overcome by the attacks of an unjust aggressor and political efforts and
non-violent defence prove to be of no avail, it is legitimate and even obligatory to take concrete measures to disarm the
aggressor. These measures however must be limited in time and precise in their aims. They must be carried out in full respect
for international law, guaranteed by an authority that is internationally recognized and, in any event, never left to the outcome
of armed intervention alone.
The fullest and the best use must therefore be made of all the provisions of the United Nations Charter, further defining
effective instruments and modes of intervention within the framework of international law. In this regard, the United Nations
Organization itself must offer all its Member States an equal opportunity to be part of the decision-making process, eliminating
privileges and discriminations which weaken its role and its credibility.
12. This opens a new field of reflection and discussion both for politics and for law, a field which we all hope will be
earnestly and wisely cultivated. What is needed without delay is a renewal of international law and international institutions, a
renewal whose starting-point and basic organizing principle should be the primacy of the good of humanity and of the human
person over every other consideration. Such a renewal is all the more urgent if we consider the paradox of contemporary
warfare in which, as recent conflicts have shown, armies enjoy maximum security while the civilian population lives in
frightening situations of danger. In no kind of conflict is it permissible to ignore the right of civilians to safety.
Beyond legal and institutional considerations, there remains a fundamental duty for all men and women of good will, called to
commit themselves personally to the cause of peace: that of educating for peace, setting in place structures of peace and
methods of non-violence, and making every possible effort to bring parties in conflict to the negotiating table.
Peace in solidarity
13. "Peace on earth to those whom God loves!" From the problem of war, our gaze naturally turns to another closely related
issue: the question of solidarity. The lofty and demanding task of peace, deeply rooted in humanity's vocation to be one family
and to recognize itself as such, has one of its foundations in the principle of the universal destination of the earth's resources.
This principle does not delegitimize private property; instead it broadens the understanding and management of private
property to embrace its indispensable social function, to the advantage of the common good and in particular the good of
society's weakest members.(2. Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 30-43: AAS 83 (1991), 830-848.) Unfortunately, this basic principle is widely disregarded, as shown by the persistent and
growing gulf in the world between a North filled with abundant commodities and resources and increasingly made up of older
people, and a South where the great majority of younger people now live, still deprived of credible prospects for social,
cultural and economic development.
No one should be deceived into thinking that the simple absence of war, as desirable as it is, is equivalent to lasting peace.
There is no true peace without fairness, truth, justice and solidarity. Failure awaits every plan which would separate two
indivisible and interdependent rights: the right to peace and the right to an integral development born of solidarity. "Injustice,
excessive economic or social inequalities, envy, distrust and pride raging among men and nations constantly threaten peace
and cause wars. Everything done to overcome these disorders contributes to building up peace and avoiding war." (3. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2317.)
14. At the beginning of a new century, the one issue which most challenges our human and Christian consciences is the
poverty of countless millions of men and women. This situation becomes all the more tragic when we realize that the major
economic problems of our time do not depend on a lack of resources but on the fact that present economic, social and cultural
structures are ill-equipped to meet the demands of genuine development.
Rightly then the poor, both in developing countries and in the prosperous and wealthy countries, "ask for the right to share in
enjoying material goods and to make good use of their capacity to work, thus creating a world that is more just and
prosperous for all. The advancement of the poor constitutes a great opportunity for the moral, cultural and even economic
growth of all humanity." (4. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Centesimus Annus (1 May 1991), 28: AAS 83 (1991), 827-828.) Let us look at the poor not as a problem, but as people who can become the principal builders of a
new and more human future for everyone.
The urgent need to rethink the economy
15. In this context we also need to examine the growing concern felt by many economists and financial professionals when,
in considering new issues involving poverty, peace, ecology and the future of the younger generation, they reflect on the role
of the market, on the pervasive influence of monetary and financial interests, on the widening gap between the economy and
society, and on other similar issues related to economic activity.
Perhaps the time has come for a new and deeper reflection on the nature of the economy and its purposes. What seems to be
urgently needed is a reconsideration of the concept of "prosperity" itself, to prevent it from being enclosed in a narrow
utilitarian perspective which leaves very little space for values such as solidarity and altruism.
16. Here I would like to invite economists and financial professionals, as well as political leaders, to recognize the urgency of
the need to ensure that economic practices and related political policies have as their aim the good of every person and of the
whole person. This is not only a demand of ethics but also of a sound economy. Experience seems to confirm that economic
success is increasingly dependent on a more genuine appreciation of individuals and their abilities, on their fuller participation,
on their increased and improved knowledge and information, on a stronger solidarity.
These are values which, far from being foreign to economics and business, help to make them a fully "human" science and
activity. An economy which takes no account of the ethical dimension and does not seek to serve the good of the person - of
every person and the whole person - cannot really call itself an "economy" , understood in the sense of a rational and
constructive use of material wealth.
Which models of development?
17. The very fact that humanity, called to form a single family, is still tragically split in two by poverty - at the beginning of the
twenty-first century, more than a billion four hundred million people are living in a situation of dire poverty - means that there is
urgent need to reconsider the models which inspire development policies.
In this regard, the legitimate requirements of economic efficiency must be better aligned with the requirements of political
participation and social justice, without falling back into the ideological mistakes made during the twentieth century. In practice,
this means making solidarity an integral part of the network of economic, political and social interdependence which the
current process of globalization is tending to consolidate.
These processes call for rethinking international cooperation in terms of a new culture of solidarity. When seen as a sowing
of peace, cooperation cannot be reduced to aid or assistance, especially if given with an eye to the benefits to be received in
return for the resources made available. Rather, it must express a concrete and tangible commitment to solidarity which makes
the poor the agents of their own development and enables the greatest number of people, in their specific economic and
political circumstances, to exercise the creativity which is characteristic of the human person and on which the wealth of
nations too is dependent.(5. Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization (5 October 1995), 13: Insegnamenti XVIII, 2 (1995), 739-740.)
In particular it is necessary to find definitive solutions to the long - standing problem of the international debt of poor countries,
while at the same time making available the financial resources necessary for the fight against hunger, malnutrition, disease,
illiteracy and the destruction of the environment.
18. Today more than in the past there is an urgent need to foster a consciousness of universal moral values in order to face
the problems of the present, all of which are assuming an increasingly global dimension. The promotion of peace and human
rights, the settling of armed conflicts both within States and across borders, the protection of ethnic minorities and immigrants,
the safeguarding of the environment, the battle against terrible diseases, the fight against drug and arms traffickers, and
against political and economic corruption: these are issues which nowadays no nation is in a position to face alone. They
concern the entire human community, and thus they must be faced and resolved through common efforts.
A way must be found to discuss the problems posed by the future of humanity in a comprehensible and common language.
The basis of such a dialogue is the universal moral law written upon the human heart. By following this "grammar" of the
spirit, the human community can confront the problems of coexistence and move forward to the future with respect for God's
plan. (6. Cf. John Paul II, Address to the Fiftieth General Assembly of the United Nations Organization (5 October 1995), 13:
Insegnamenti XVIII, 2 (1995), 732)
The encounter between faith and reason, between religion and morality, can provide a decisive impulse towards dialogue and
cooperation between peoples, cultures and religions.