His Holiness Pope John Paul II and I have disagreed on many issues over many years (e.g. birth control, ordination of women, homosexuality, etc). However, there are many elements of his message for this World Day of Peace with which I do agree. But this message also raises some very deep issues for the Catholic Church to consider and deal with.
The message starts with “Do not be overcome by evil but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). It then continues:
“… peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil
is defeated by good”
“Evil always has a name and a face: the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it.”
“… evil is a tragic rejection of the demands of love.”
“Fostering peace by overcoming evil with good requires careful reflection on the common good and on its social and political implications.”
“Since the good of peace is closely linked to the development of all peoples, the ethical requirements for the use of the earth’s goods must always be taken into account.”
The Pope then goes on to link much of the evil in evidence to the poverty experienced in many parts of the world. He also identifies the responsibility of those who have much to be generous to those who have little.
As Christians, those who have much are required to do more for our less well-off brothers and sisters on a personal level. However, this message also calls upon the Catholic Church, as an institution, to examine its own relationship to material possessions and to those who have been harmed by its officials (e.g. sex abuse victims).
This message has deep implications for the way the Catholic Church as a body deals with many issues in coming days. It is not realistic for an organization to take the moral high ground while continuing to amass wealth and oppress or victimize human beings who have trusted in it. If the correlation between words and deeds is not right then sooner or later the organization will either need to reform or falter.
During 2005 it will be interesting to see how both individuals and the Catholic Church rise to meet the Pope’s challenge to share in “the one bread and one cup … [coming] to realise that we are ‘God’s family’ and that together we can make our own effective contribution to building a world based on the values of justice, freedom and peace.”