|MESSAGE OF HIS HOLINESS POPE JOHN PAUL II
FOR THE CELEBRATION OF
THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE
Here follows an except from the full text:
1 JANUARY 2002
NO PEACE WITHOUT JUSTICE
This is the hope which sustains the Church at the beginning of 2002:
that, by the grace of God, a world in which the power of evil seems once
again to have taken the upper hand will in fact be transformed into a world
in which the noblest aspirations of the human heart will triumph, a world
in which true peace will prevail.
My reasoned conviction, confirmed in turn by biblical revelation, is that the shattered order cannot be fully restored except by a response that combines justice with forgiveness. The pillars of true peace are justice and that form of love which is forgiveness.
True peace therefore is the fruit of justice, that moral virtue and
legal guarantee which ensures full respect for rights and responsibilities,
and the just distribution of benefits and burdens. But because human justice
is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and
egoism of individuals and groups, it must include and, as it were, be completed
by the forgiveness which heals and rebuilds troubled human relations
from their foundations.
There exists therefore a right to defend oneself against terrorism, a right which, as always, must be exercised with respect for moral and legal limits in the choice of ends and means. The guilty must be correctly identified, since criminal culpability is always personal and cannot be extended to the nation, ethnic group or religion to which the terrorists may belong. International cooperation in the fight against terrorist activities must also include a courageous and resolute political, diplomatic and economic commitment to relieving situations of oppression and marginalization which facilitate the designs of terrorists. The recruitment of terrorists in fact is easier in situations where rights are trampled upon and injustices tolerated over a long period of time.
Still, it must be firmly stated that the injustices existing in the
world can never be used to excuse acts of terrorism, and it should be noted
that the victims of the radical breakdown of order which terrorism seeks
to achieve include above all the countless millions of men and women who
are least well-positioned to withstand a collapse of international solidarity—namely,
the people of the developing world, who already live on a thin margin of
survival and who would be most grievously affected by global economic and
political chaos. The terrorist claim to be acting on behalf of the poor
is a patent falsehood.
But what does forgiveness actually mean? And why should we forgive? A reflection on forgiveness cannot avoid these questions. Returning to what I wrote in my Message for the 1997 World Day of Peace (“Offer Forgiveness and Receive Peace”), I would reaffirm that forgiveness inhabits people's hearts before it becomes a social reality. Only to the degree that an ethics and a culture of forgiveness prevail can we hope for a “politics” of forgiveness, expressed in society's attitudes and laws, so that through them justice takes on a more human character.
Forgiveness is above all a personal choice, a decision of the heart
to go against the natural instinct to pay back evil with evil. The measure
of such a decision is the love of God who draws us to himself in spite
of our sin. It has its perfect exemplar in the forgiveness of Christ, who
on the Cross prayed: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they
do” (Lk 23:34).
By contrast, the failure to forgive, especially when it serves to prolong conflict, is extremely costly in terms of human development. Resources are used for weapons rather than for development, peace and justice. What sufferings are inflicted on humanity because of the failure to reconcile! What delays in progress because of the failure to forgive! Peace is essential for development, but true peace is made possible only through forgiveness.
Forgiveness is not a proposal that can be immediately understood
or easily accepted; in many ways it is a paradoxical message. Forgiveness
in fact always involves an apparent short-term loss for a real
long-term gain. Violence is the exact opposite; opting as it does for an
apparent short-term gain, it involves a real and permanent loss. Forgiveness
may seem like weakness, but it demands great spiritual strength and moral
courage, both in granting it and in accepting it. It may seem in some way
to diminish us, but in fact it leads us to a fuller and richer humanity,
more radiant with the splendour of the Creator.
Precisely for this reason, prayer for peace is not an afterthought
to the work of peace. It is of the very essence of building the peace of
order, justice, and freedom. To pray for peace is to open the human heart
to the inroads of God's power to renew all things. With the life-giving
force of his grace, God can create openings for peace where only obstacles
and closures are apparent; he can strengthen and enlarge the solidarity
of the human family in spite of our endless history of division and conflict.
To pray for peace is to pray for justice, for a right-ordering of relations
within and among nations and peoples. It is to pray for freedom, especially
for the religious freedom that is a basic human and civil right of every
individual. To pray for peace is to seek God's forgiveness, and to implore
the courage to forgive those who have trespassed against us.
No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: this is what in this Message I wish to say to believers and unbelievers alike, to all men and women of good will who are concerned for the good of the human family and for its future.
No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: this is what I wish to say to those responsible for the future of the human community, entreating them to be guided in their weighty and difficult decisions by the light of man's true good, always with a view to the common good.
No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy.
On this World Day of Peace, may a more intense prayer rise from the
hearts of all believers for the victims of terrorism, for their families
so tragically stricken, for all the peoples who continue to be hurt and
convulsed by terrorism and war. May the light of our prayer extend even
to those who gravely offend God and man by these pitiless acts, that they
may look into their hearts, see the evil of what they do, abandon all violent
intentions, and seek forgiveness. In these troubled times, may the whole
human family find true and lasting peace, born of the marriage of justice