by Tony Magliano, CNS

“With what attitude should we look to the new year?” asks Pope Benedict XVI in his Jan. 1, 2012 World Day of Peace Message. Reflecting on Psalm 130, the Holy Father echoes its message that people of deep faith wait for the Lord with unshakable hope, because they know that he will bring light, mercy and salvation.

These are, indeed, encouraging and comforting words for believers to hold onto in the midst of so much dark heartlessness.

“It is true that the year now ending has been marked by a rising sense of frustration at the crisis looming over society. … It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day,” writes the pope. But hoping to tap into and guide the particularly hopeful expectations of youth, Benedict titled his World Day of Peace Message: “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.”

In this peace message, the pope urges parents, families, educators and all people in leadership positions to communicate to young people “an appreciation for the positive value of life and of awakening in them a desire to spend their lives in the service of the good.” In order to inspire youth “to move beyond themselves,” the Holy Father insists that “We need witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader.”

But instead, countless “leaders” are providing a very different, negative witness.
In the midst of America’s worship of its military might, the Obama administration, together with a majority in Congress, continue to feed young people to the god of war. The ancient Romans called this god Mars; perhaps the United States should name its war-god the “military-industrial-complex” – a term of warning borrowed from President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s farewell address.

In his World Day of Peace Message, the Holy Father boldly proclaimed that, “Peace, however, is not merely a gift to be received: It is also a task to be undertaken. In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity … in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth.” But sadly, the only “redistribution of wealth” in the last 30 years has been the taking of money from the poor and shrinking middle-class, and moving it into the bank accounts of the rich.

The federal government continues to protect tax breaks for rich individuals and corporations while slashing safety-net benefits to the needy. A first-hand example for me comes from a neighbor who explained that her elderly, very low income mother received a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that her Supplemental Security Income check would be reduced, effective Jan. 1, 2012, from $335 a month to $99 dollars a month.

All of this narrow, selfish economic injustice, and lust for war-making and war preparation, fails to provide young people with the “witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader.”

On a hopeful note, Pope Benedict concludes: “Let us feel a common responsibility toward present and future generations, especially in the task of training them to be people of peace and builders of peace.” In this way, hopefully, younger generations will do the good older generations refuse to attempt.

Tony Magliano is a Catholic News Service columnist whose work appears in diocesan papers throughout the United States. If your diocesan paper does not carry his column, we encourage you to call them and request that they do.

One thought on “PEACE: Reflections on Pope Benedict XVI’s World Day of Peace message

  1. Well, at least, in accordance with the tenants of PaxChristi, Pope Benedict admits that to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion and solidarity, although I would argue that education is not strong and deep enough for the tasks: I feel it takes deep spiritual formation, but the Pope did hint at a way to start. I agree with him, too, that we must form and build community, work and teach intergenerationally, become aware of national and international issues [so tha[(?)] we can find the mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth.

    I would have appreciated it if he had had a gibbit of inspitation regarding how to effect this monetary reversal. A tiny bit of moralizing capability about needed generosity, sacrifice [!} and flexibility on the part of those in authority would have given the downtrodden (and me) hope. I would have preferred a little less reliance upon God’s taking care of the earthly problems, caused essentially by greed and pride, that s/he did not create.

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