Pope Benedict XVI believes the various crises that afflicted society in 2011 can be met with hope in the coming year if parents introduce young people to Jesus and teach them Christian values.
“It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true,” the Pope says in his message for the 45th World Day of Peace, which will be observed Jan. 1, 2012.
“And what could ever save us apart from love? Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things,” he writes.
The World Day of Peace is marked by the Church each year on Jan. 1, the solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. It was first introduced in 1967, inspired by Pope John XXIII’s encyclical “Pacem in Terris” (Peace on Earth), which was published in 1963.
Pope Benedict XVI’s message for this year’s celebration was unveiled on the morning of Dec. 16 at a Vatican press conference hosted by Cardinal Peter Turkson, chairman of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and the council’s secretary, Archbishop Mario Toso.
In his address, the Pope says that people should look to 2012 with an “attitude of confident trust,” despite the “crisis looming over society, the world of labor and the economy” in 2011. He describes how, for many, “a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day.”
And yet “human hearts continue to wait for the dawn” with that type of expectation that is “particularly powerful and evident in young people,” Pope Benedict says, explaining that the idealism and enthusiasm of the youth are the reason he chose the theme “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace” for his 2012 message.
He is convicted that “the young, with their enthusiasm and idealism, can offer new hope to the world.”
The Pope says that realizing this hope will involve “communicating to young people an appreciation for the positive value of life” and “awakening in them a desire to spend their lives in the service of the Good.”
This job of education in justice and peace, adds the Pope, must be carried out by adults who do not “simply parcel out rules and facts” but who are “authentic witnesses” that live out what they teach.
The Pope notes that this education takes place first in the family, which is where “children learn the human and Christian values which enable them to have a constructive and peaceful coexistence.” It is also in the family that they “learn solidarity between the generations, respect for rules, forgiveness and how to welcome others.”
These lessons and values require that children have “the most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents,” he says, although recognizing that the pace and demands of modern life can sometimes make this difficult due to “working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities.”
Pope Benedict also mentions the role of professional educators, calling on them to reinforce the values children receive at home, so they will “reassure families that their children can receive an education that does not conflict with their consciences and their religious principles.”
At the same time, the Pope warns that education can be distorted and destroyed by a “dictatorship of relativism,” which obscures the fact that “deep within his conscience, man discovers a law that he did not lay upon himself, but which he must obey.”
It is in recognizing this natural moral law, he says, that people are best able to exercise their freedom and live a “just and peaceful coexistence.”
Conversely, “human rights are seriously threatened by the widespread tendency to have recourse exclusively to the criteria of utility, profit and material possessions” in making decisions about life.
Pope Benedict concludes with a challenge to young people “not yield to discouragement in the face of difficulties and do not abandon yourselves to false solutions which often seem the easiest way to overcome problems.”
Young people should not be afraid of commitment, hard work, sacrifice and the choice of paths in life that “demand fidelity and constancy, humility and dedication,” he writes.
“Be confident in your youth and its profound desires for happiness, truth, beauty and genuine love! Live fully this time in your life so rich and so full of enthusiasm.”
In doing so, young people can be assured that they are “never alone,” because the Church offers them confidence, encouragement and “the most precious gift she has: the opportunity to raise your eyes to God, to encounter Jesus Christ, who is himself justice and peace.”