This morning, Pope Benedict encouraged world diplomats and the nations they represent to recognize truth, forgiveness and authentic human dignity as the only means to bring about lasting world peace. He broke with the tradition of his predecessor, to make a "state of the world" speech, as did Pope John Paul II.
The Holy Father’s remarks came during his annual New Year’s meeting with members of the Vatican diplomatic corps, who assembled today at the Holy See.
The Pope began his address by wishing "Christian joy" to the ambassadors themselves and to the peoples and governments they represent.
"May it be the joy of universal brotherhood brought by Christ, a joy that is rich in truthful values and is openly and generously shared; may it remain with you and grow every day of the year that has just begun," he said.
Benedict then went on to speak of a “common mission” which “confronts us with ever new and formidable challenges. Yet we address them with confidence, eager to support one another - each according to his proper responsibility - on our path towards great common objectives.”
Continuing on this theme, the Pope asked, “what is this [common mission], if not the mission of peace? ... Peace, alas, is hindered or damaged or threatened in many parts of the world. What is the way that leads to peace?"
He did affirm however that "In today's world, alongside appalling scenes of military conflict, open or latent, or only apparently resolved, one can observe, thank God, a courageous and tenacious effort on the part of many people and institutions in support of peace.”
Benedict then laid out what he called a series of “fraternal encouragements” to the diplomats as a means to build up this way of peace.
His first point was that, “commitment to truth is the soul of justice.” He said that “Those who are committed to truth cannot fail to reject the law of might, which is based on a lie and has so frequently marked human history, nationally and internationally, with tragedy."
Citing tenuous situations, particularly in the Holy Land, the Pope noted that world violence is heightened and made more acute by organized terrorism.
On this, he said that “No situation can justify such criminal activity, which covers the perpetrators with infamy, and it is all the more deplorable when it hides behind religion, thereby bringing the pure truth of God down to the level of the terrorists' own blindness and moral perversion.”
The Pope‘s second point was that “commitment to truth establishes and strengthens the right to freedom. ... Truth can only be attained in freedom.”
“This”, he said, “is the case with all truth, as is clear from the history of science; but it is eminently the case with those truths in which man himself, man as such, is at stake, the truths of the spirit, the truths about good and evil, about the great goals and horizons of life, about our relationship with God.”
He went on to say that “These truths cannot be attained without profound consequences for the way we live our lives”, and told “all those responsible for the life of Nations…: if you do not fear truth, you need not fear freedom!”
“The Holy See, in calling for true freedom for the Catholic Church everywhere, also calls for that freedom for everyone,” he said.
The Pope‘s third point was that “commitment to truth opens the way to forgiveness and reconciliation.“
“Differing convictions about the truth”, he said, “cause tensions, misunderstandings, disputes, and these are all the more serious the deeper the convictions underlying them.”
He said specifically that "Asking for forgiveness, and granting forgiveness, which is likewise an obligation ... are indispensable elements for peace.”
On this, he cited the words of his successor, John Paul II: “There can be no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness.”
“I repeat these words,” he said, “humbly and with deep love, to the leaders of nations, especially those where the physical and moral wounds of conflicts are most painful, and the need for peace most urgent.”
Benedict’s final point was that “commitment to peace opens up new hopes.”
He called this “the logical conclusion of everything that I have been saying. Man is capable of knowing the truth!”
The peace, to which man “can and must be committed,” he stressed, “is not merely the silence of arms; it is, much more, a peace which can encourage new energies within international relations which in turn become a means of maintaining peace.”
“…this will be the case”, the Pope said, “only if they correspond to the truth about man and his dignity. Consequently one cannot speak of peace in situations where human beings are lacking even the basic necessities for living with dignity.”
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