VATICAN (CWN) -- In his annual message for the World Day of Peace, January 1, Pope John Paul II called upon the world's heads of state to guide the global economy on the basis of "equity and solidarity." In particular, he renewed his call for a coordinated plan to forgive the external debts of undeveloped countries.

      On January 1, the Holy Father presided at a solemn Mass honoring Mary, the Mother of God, on her feast day. In accordance with a Vatican tradition, the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See were all present at the Mass.

      Speaking after the Angelus, Pope John Paul brought together the themes associated with this 31st World Day of Peace and the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Human Rights. He remarked that all political systems must be oriented toward, and respectful of, the dignity of the person.

      Recognizing that today's economy operates on a global scale, the Pontiff insisted that leaders must take pains to ensure that the process of globalization does not ignore the needs of individuals, "nor marginalize people, groups, or nations." He called instead for a system which recognizes "the family of nations," as he had urged in his October 1995 speech at the United Nations.

      In particular, he said, such an approach would leave no doubt as to the need for action to reduce the debts owed by the world's most impoverished countries. Toward that end, he added, it is essential to achieve a coordinated effort, in order to achieve a "durable solution." And the coordinated effort, he continued, must also involve changes on the part of the debtor nations, which must work toward a real "culture of law," and a "war against corruption." The firm tone in which these remarks were made left no doubt that the Holy Father saw corruption and graft in the Third World as a major factor contributing to the countries' poverty.

      As Christian believers prepare for the Jubilee Year, the Pope said, they should cultivate a "life of simplicity." The task of creating world peace, he said, is one which all people share. "It is indispensable," he said, "that everyone involve himself on behalf of justice, in respect for human rights, and in recognition of the duties that are implied."

      Linking the call for peace with what he characterized as "the theology of Christmas," John Paul pointed out that "it is Christ who brings authentic peace," by "reconciling man to man and all of humanity to God."

      That reconciliation, the Holy Father explained, comes as "man becomes the adoptive son of God by the grace of the birth of the Son of God himself." In that perspective, he said, "the birth of Christ is at the center of time" and also at the center of the drama of salvation for mankind.

ACKNOWLEDGMENT:To subscribe to Catholic World News Service, available daily by e-mail, click here .

January 5, 1998 volume 9, no. 3          DAILY CATHOLIC