Peacemakers, Born and Raised in Families
by David Gibson
Every person “is called to work for peace,” Pope Benedict XVI says in his message for the Jan. 1, 2013, World Day of Peace.
“In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life,” the message states. It insists that “peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible.”
The family’s peacemaking role is highlighted by the pope’s message. “It is in the family that peacemakers, tomorrow’s promoters of a culture of life and love, are born and nurtured,” he notes.
“The family,” Pope Benedict writes, “has a natural vocation to promote life.” After all, the family “accompanies individuals as they mature, and it encourages mutual growth and enrichment through caring and sharing.”
He comments that “the Christian family in particular serves as a seedbed” in which individuals grow and mature “according to the standards of divine love.”
The interest shown in the family’s peacemaking role in this World Day of Peace message reflects its overall conviction that peace is fostered when the common good is promoted, but damaged when the common good is ignored.
The common good is served when the family is taken seriously, the message suggests.
It affirms that by acting in ways that promote the common good on many fronts in society and the world, people help to create the conditions in which peace can grow and thrive.
Attaining the Common Good
Peace, Pope Benedict says, “is principally the attainment of the common good in society at its different levels, primary and intermediary, national, international and global.” He adds:
“It can be said that the paths which lead to the attainment of the common good are also the paths that must be followed in the pursuit of peace.”
In light of that, his message covers a broad range of issues related to promoting the common good.
The message makes the point that peace is counteracted by a disinterest in the true meaning of work for individuals, families and society, for example, or by ignorance of the facts about world hunger, approaches to the economy that solely accent profit and consumption, misunderstandings of the family and marriage or a lack of respect for human life at every stage.
True peacemakers “are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions,” the message says. “Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.”
Cardinal Peter Turkson said during a Rome press conference Dec. 14 that the pope wanted in this message to be very concrete about what it takes to promote true peace. Cardinal Turkson is president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
Thus, the message affirms the family’s basic value. Cultivating “a passion for the common good of the family” is essential to peacemaking, it holds.
“No one should ignore or underestimate the decisive role of the family, which is the basic cell of society,” the pope says. He calls the family “one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace.”
Pedagogy of Peace
Many parents, grandparents and others will recognize a role for themselves in the discussion by this World Day of Peace message of a pedagogy for peacemakers.
Here the pope shares his insight that “acts of peacemaking … create interest in peace and cultivate peace.” In fact, he says, “thoughts, words and gestures of peace create a mentality and a culture of peace, and a respectful, honest and cordial atmosphere.”
There is a need, according to the pope, “to teach people to love one another, to cultivate peace and to live with good will, rather than” merely to tolerate each other in this world.
There is, moreover, a need to pursue what the pope calls “a pedagogy of pardon” that accents forgiveness, reconciliation and the avoidance of revenge. Self-absorption and “a withered existence lived in indifference” hold only the promise of a false peace, he makes clear.
“Evil is in fact overcome by good, and justice is to be sought in imitating God the Father, who loves all his children,” Pope Benedict writes.
His message views “the attainment of peace” in today’s world as a “slow process” that “presupposes a spiritual evolution, an education in lofty values, a new vision of human history.”
Peace “depends above all on recognizing that we are, in God, one human family,” Pope Benedict says.
The attainment of peace, he insists, calls for an “internal and external moral” order that is “enlivened and integrated by love in such a way that we feel the needs of others as our own, share our goods with others and work throughout the world for greater communion in spiritual values.”
About the author
David Gibson served for 37 years on the editorial staff at Catholic News Service, where he was the founding and long-time editor of Origins, CNS Documentary Service. David received a bachelor’s degree from St. John’s University in Minnesota and an M.A. in religious education from The Catholic University of America. Married for 38 years, he and his wife have three adult daughters and six grandchildren.