The Family: “An Essential Resource in the Service of Peace”

Made public Tuesday was Benedict XVI's Message for the 41st World Day of Peace. The Day falls on January 1, 2008, and has as its theme: "The Human Family, a Community of Peace." The text has been published in English, French, Spanish, Italian, German and Portuguese.

Extracts from the Message are given below:

"The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman, constitutes 'the primary place of humanization for the person and society and a 'cradle of life and love.' The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, 'a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order'."

After highlighting the fact that "the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace," the Holy Father recalls that it is also "the foundation of society … because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family."

"The family, since it has the duty of educating its members, is the subject of specific rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represents a landmark of juridic civilization of truly universal value, states that 'the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State.' … 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," the Pope adds, "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. … 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."

"When society and public policy are not committed to assisting the family," the Holy Father writes, "they deprive themselves of an essential resource in the service of peace." Moreover "social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential, have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty."

"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. … 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 earth is the home of the human family, says the Holy Father, highlighting the need "to care for the environment" which "has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-a-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man."

"Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations."

In this regard, the Pope dwells on the need "to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. … One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources: … on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency." Poor countries, the Pope adds, "due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess."

"Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth. In particular, the aid given to poor countries must be guided by sound economic principles, avoiding forms of waste associated principally with the maintenance of expensive bureaucracies. Due account must also be taken of the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit, which can prove inhumane."

Benedict XVI writes: "A family lives in peace 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. … 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. … Power must always be disciplined by law, and this applies also to relations between sovereign States."

"The juridic norm, which regulates relationships between individuals, disciplines external conduct and establishes penalties for offenders, has as its criterion the moral norm grounded in nature itself."

"Knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being. Albeit not without hesitation and doubt, they are capable of discovering, at least in its essential lines, this common moral law which, over and above cultural differences, enables human beings to come to a common understanding regarding the most important aspects of good and evil, justice and injustice. … Mankind is not 'lawless.' All the same, there is an urgent need to persevere in dialogue about these issues and to encourage the legislation of individual States to converge towards a recognition of fundamental human rights. The growth of a global juridic culture depends, for that matter, on a constant commitment to strengthen the profound human content of international norms, lest they be reduced to mere procedures, easily subject to manipulation for selfish or ideological reasons."

Benedict XVI's Message proceeds: "Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future." In this context, the Pope underlines how "the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension," while in Africa there are still "many civil wars" and "the Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighboring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence. On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race."

"In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms. At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, 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."

Pope Benedict concludes by recalling three special anniversaries: "Sixty years ago the United Nations Organization solemnly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. … This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace."

"In the light of these significant anniversaries, I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace. I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace"

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