Peace Is Learned at Home, Says Benedict XVI
Dedicates World Day Message to Family
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The Pope affirmed this in his Dec. 8 message released today for the World Day of Peace, to be celebrated Jan. 1, 2008.
The Holy Father dedicated his message to the theme "The Human Family, a Community of Peace," and drew from the example of the family founded on a marriage between a man and a woman as a model for establishing peace among all peoples.
"The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace," the Pontiff said. "It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savor the genuine 'taste' of peace better than in the original 'nest' which nature prepares for them?
"The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the 'vocabulary' of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that 'grammar' which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words."
Benedict XVI contended that the family, model of peace, must be protected as the subject of specific rights.
He said: "The denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace.
"Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection: Everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace."
The family founded on marriage is a model for the human family as a whole, the Pope contended.
"The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based," he said. "This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth.
"The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family.
"We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters. Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others.
"By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbors, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family."
The Holy Father drew attention to four areas in which peace is threatened or destroyed.
He first mentioned the importance of protecting the environment.
"The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships," the Pontiff wrote. "For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility.
"Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves."
Benedict XVI also affirmed the value of the economy, both for the individual and the human family.
"The peace of the family, then, requires an openness to a transcendent patrimony of values, and at the same time a concern for the prudent management of both material goods and interpersonal relationships," he explained. "Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing. Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth."
The Holy Father also emphasized the importance of a common law to govern the human family, as a prerequisite of peace.
"A family lives in peace," he said, "if all its members submit to a common standard: This is what prevents selfish individualism and brings individuals together, fostering their harmonious coexistence and giving direction to their work. This principle, obvious as it is, also holds true for wider communities: from local and national communities to the international community itself.
"For the sake of peace, a common law is needed, one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong."
Finally, the Pontiff lamented continuing conflicts plaguing various parts of the world and the increased spending on arms.
"Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future," Benedict XVI warned. "Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person.
"On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of states engaged in the arms race: Even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons. [...] The countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry."
"At a time when the process of nuclear nonproliferation is at a standstill, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons," the Pope affirmed. "In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity."