World Day of Peace. As the worldâ€™s foremost leader in public attention and respect, Pope Francis on New Yearâ€™s Day declared in an Angelus message at St. Peterâ€™s Square: â€œToday we celebrate the World Day of Peace whose theme is â€˜overcome indifference and win peace.â€™â€ Since 1968, or for 48 years now, the Vatican has dedicated its New Yearâ€™s Day message to peace.
The Pope is 79 years old. He leads the worldâ€™s 1.2 billion Catholics. But wherever he visits people of different faiths are attracted to see and hear him. As a moral and political leader no president, prime minister, king or queen, or other head of state attracts as many people as he. The late Pope John Paul II was also a tremendous charismatic moral and political world leader. And yet politically the Catholic Pope heads the tiny state of the Vatican, the Holy See near Rome.
To be reborn. In his New Year message Pope Francis emphasized the need to â€œlet ourselves be reborn, to overcome the indifference that blocks solidarity and to leave behind the false neutrality that prevents sharing.â€ He called for an end to the â€œarrogance of the powerfulâ€¦ for reconciliation, and for support for refugees. In other words it is the â€œtime to end indifference.â€
Wishing the New Year to be better than the year past, Pope Francis â€œcalled for an end to the â€˜arrogance of the powerfulâ€™ that relegates the weak to the outskirts of society, and to the â€˜false neutralityâ€™ toward conflicts, hunger and persecution that triggers exoduses of refugees.â€
â€œAt the start of the year, itâ€™s lovely to exchange wishes. Letâ€™s renew, to one another, the desire that which awaits us is a little better than what last year brought.â€ The Pope added: â€œIt is, after all, a sign of the hope that animates us and invites us all to believe in life.â€
But also to be realistic. â€œWe know, however, that with the New Year, everything wonâ€™t change and that many of yesterdayâ€™s problems will also remain tomorrow,â€ the Pope said. He added that he was making a â€œwish sustained by a real hope.â€
He cautioned: â€œthe enemy of peace isnâ€™t only war, but also indifference,â€ and he decried â€œbarriers, suspicions, fears and closuresâ€ toward others. He reflected on the â€œcountless forms of injustice and violence that daily wound our human family.â€
Arrogance of the powerful. Said the Pope: â€œSometimes we ask ourselves how it is possible that human injustice persists unabated, and that the arrogance of the powerful continues to demean the weak, relegating them to the most squalid outskirts of our world.â€
â€œWe ask how long human evil will continue to sow violence and hatred in our world, reaping innocent victims.â€
â€œCiting no country, continent or conflict, he urged national governments to support the refugees and migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East that have poured into Europe in recent years.â€
Over a million refugees have just been resettled in Europe, led by the Federal Republic of Germany. Largely for this, Chancellor Angela Merkel was chosen Person of the Year 2015 by Time Magazine.
But in his annual message in Christmas, â€œUrbi et Orbiâ€ (to the city and to the world) the Pope cited Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Libya, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen.
Refugees and migrants. The Popeâ€™s message â€œclearly evoked images of the refugees and migrants, more than one Â million of whom flooded into Europe from Africa, the Middle East and Asia in 2015, on dangerous sea or overland journeys.â€
He spoke of â€œwitnessing hordes of men, women and children fleeing war, hunger and persecution, ready to risk their lives simply to encounter respect for their fundamental rights.â€
This year, 2016, Pope Francis is stressing mercy as the path toward reconciliation.
Holy Year of Mercy. To highlight the benefits springing from forgiveness and reconciliation in the world, Pope Francis declared a Holy Year of Mercy, which began in November 2015 and runs through November 2016.
Early evening, December 25, 2015 he visited St. Mary Major Basilica in Rome, where he would sometimes pray, to open a normally sealed Holy Door. Reportedly, this was a symbolic threshold to cross toward mercy for the Catholic faithful.
Thanks a lot for the main source of this column. I drew heavily from the headline story in the Philippine Daily Inquirer on January 3, 2016. Entitled â€œTime to end indifference: Pope calls for reconciliation, support for refugees.â€
In turn the PDI headline story drew from â€œReports from AP, Reuters, and New York Times News Service. (Jose â€œPepeâ€ Abueva)
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