The Pope says that "Christians cannot remain indifferent" to the present situation. The "only way to peace is forgiveness," he adds. "To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupting the spiral of hatred and revenge, and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals."
Addressing Catholics around the world who will begin Lent on Feb. 28, a period of spiritual preparation for Holy Week, culminating with the Easter resurrection, the Pontiff said that forgiveness, Jesus´ characteristic commandment, is a duty.
"To love the one who offends you disarms the adversary and is able to transform a battlefield into a place of supportive cooperation," the Pope writes.
This is a "weapon" that not only silences the machine guns in armed warfare, but also disarms spirits who are confronted in family conflicts or in disputes arising from daily life.
"The Christian must make peace even when feeling as the victim of one who has unjustly offended and struck," the Pope stresses. "The Church, announcing forgiveness and love of enemies, is conscious to inspire in the spiritual patrimony of all humanity a new way of relating to each other, a somewhat difficult way but rich in hope."
However, peace not only requires forgiveness, but also asking for forgiveness. Hence, the Pontiff´s historic gestures asking for forgiveness for the faults and sins committed by members of the Church throughout history.
"We are well aware that the guilt of Christians somewhat darkened the spotless face," he writes. "However, trusting in God´s merciful love, which does not take into account evil in the face of repentance, we are also able to continually return with confidence to the path."
John Paul offers concrete advice in his message: "In the holy days of Lent the ´offering´ assumes a deeper meaning, because it is not just giving something from the surplus to relieve one´s conscience, but to truly take upon oneself the misery present in the world."
Moreover, he says, the "Lenten offering brings about an added richness of meaning if the one making the offering is freed from resentment and indifference, obstacles which keep us far from communion with God and with our brothers and sisters."