In Pope Francis’ message for January 1st, World Day of Peace, his Holiness calls “Fraternity the foundation & pathway to peace.” His message begins with our original call to be brothers & sisters in the story of Cain & Abel (Gn. 4:1-16), and then the Pope touches on the many examples in society where we have opportunities to form relationships, yet often fail to do so. He asks the questions we all ask from time to time, “Can the men and women of this world ever fully respond to the longing for fraternity placed within them by God the Father? Will they ever manage by their power alone to overcome indifference, egoism and hatred, and to accept the legitimate differences typical of brothers and sisters?”
If fraternity is the foundation & pathway to peace, then Pope Francis also rightly names fraternity as “a prerequisite to fighting poverty,” and further states that “fraternity extinguishes war.” If we, as individuals or as nations, see others as anything less than a brother or sister, then we will find no difficulty in treated them as a commodity to be exploited; and isn’t that exactly what has happened the world over? We exploit people, animals, and nature because we fail to enter into relationship.
As I read the Pope’s message, not only did I begin to see connections that I hadn’t considered before, but I also felt a little embarrassed. As a Catholic I am aware of the teachings on Social Justice and I do my best to work for justice, but I often feel like I should be doing more, and that I should be doing a better job at promoting peace & justice. Here’s the line under point #7 of the Pope’s message that gets me: “The Church also speaks out in order to make leaders hear the cry of pain of the suffering and to put an end to every form of hostility, abuse and the violation of fundamental human rights.” Well, does “the Church” also speak out? Do I? God asked Cain, “Where is your brother?” God is still asking that same question of us. It’s a tough question. How am I speaking out for my brothers & sisters in need, and am I doing all I can to lead others to fraternity?
Under #8 Pope Francis addresses corruption, governments, and organized crime (funny he lumped them all together!). “Fraternity generates social peace because it creates a balance between freedom and justice, between personal responsibility and solidarity, between the good of individuals and the common good. And so a political community must act in a transparent and responsible way to favour all this. Citizens must feel themselves represented by the public authorities in respect for their freedom. Yet frequently a wedge is driven between citizens and institutions by partisan interests which disfigure that relationship, fostering the creation of an enduring climate of conflict.”
He closes with this: “Service is the soul of that fraternity that builds up peace.”
Enough said. Pope Francis says it best in his message of peace, so I encourage you to read it. I, like Pope Francis, offer my “best wishes for a life filled with joy and hope.” Happy New Year, my brothers & sisters! Peace.