Each year on New Year's Day (also the World Day of Peace), the Pope offers a special message to the world. (See Message for the celebration of the World Day of Peace 2007
for the full text).
This year's message for January 1 is the fortieth in the series inaugurated by Paul VI in 1968.
The theme of Pope Benedict's message is: "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace." The 14-page document, sent to all heads of state and government and international organizations, also focuses on human rights, saying they are under "constant attack" and have to be "adequately defended."
Benedict XVI expresses his conviction, "That respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism."
This message is structured in three parts, the first of which highlights the meaning and value of the connection between the human person and peace, considered and presented through the theological-spiritual categories of "gift and task."
In the second part, the truth of the human person is related to the innovative concept of the "ecology of peace."
The Pope poses a series of questions that highlight how the problem of the relationship with nature is closely associated with the construction, among mankind and between nations, of ecological human relationships.
In other words, relationships that respect the dignity of the person and his or her authentic needs.
In the third part, the truth about human beings is considered with reference to the complex field of respect for their fundamental rights, of international humanitarian law and of responsibilities inherent to the activity of international organizations.
Benedict XVI makes it clear that "true and stable peace presupposes respect for human rights anchored in a strong conception of the human person. Rights express the requirements of human nature as it arose in the Creation. They tell us what men and women need in their existence in order to be able to be themselves with dignity. They tell us how we must treat human beings with dignity. Human rights cannot sustain the ... attacks to which they are subject if they do not rediscover this significance."
One of the themes that Pope Benedict XVI has developed in his message is the urgent need for all people to respect the right to life.
Respect for life at every stage establishes a principle of decisive importance: Life is a gift that is not completely at the disposal of the subject.
The right to life and to the free expression of personal faith in God is not subject to the power of human beings.
The Papal message states: "As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society: Alongside the victims of armed conflicts, terrorism and the different forms of violence, there are the silent deaths caused by hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia. How can we fail to see in all this an attack on peace? Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace."
The conclusion of Benedict XVI's message is addressed to every Christian, who is called upon to be a tireless worker for peace and an energetic defender of the dignity of the human person. The sentiment of belonging to the Church must be lived with a generous dedication towards everyone, especially towards people suffering poverty and privation, and who lack the precious gift of peace.
CHAMPIONS OF DIGNITY
In Benedict's own words: "Jesus has revealed to us that "God is love" (1 Jn 4:8) and that the highest vocation of every person is love. In Christ we can find the ultimate reason for becoming staunch champions of human dignity and courageous builders of peace."
On that note, a happy, peaceful and blessed New Year to all who have read this column so faithfully over the past year!