The Human Person: The Heart of Peace

In the Holy See Press Office this morning, Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino and Bishop Giampaolo Crepaldi, respectively president and secretary of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, presented the Pope's Message for the World Day of Peace 2007, which has as its theme: "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace."

Cardinal Martino affirmed that this year's Message "must be read and interpreted as a continuation and completion of last year's. Indeed, the Holy Father expresses his conviction 'that respect for the person promotes peace and that, in building peace, the foundations are laid for an authentic integral humanism'."

The Message, the cardinal continued, "is structured in three parts," the first of which highlights "the meaning and value of the connection between the human person and peace, considered and presented through the theological/spiritual categories of 'gift and task.' In the second part, the truth of the human person is related to the new and innovative concept of 'ecology of peace.' In the third part, the truth about human beings is considered with reference to the complex field of respect for their fundamental rights, of international humanitarian law and of certain responsibilities inherent to the activity of international organizations. The Message concludes with a call to Christians to become workers for peace."

"Recognition of the transcendent order of things is the basis upon which to found the inter-religious and cultural dialogue that aims to promote peace. In order to advance the cause of peace, humanity today must treasure the norms of natural law, norms which 'should not be viewed as externally imposed decrees, as restraints upon human freedom'."

Later in the Message, "the Holy Father affirms that certain things are and must remain beyond the disposal of human will, these are the right to life and to religious freedom." The former because it is a gift and the latter because "it opens nature to something that transcends it."

On the subject of the natural equality of all persons, the Holy Father highlights how "inequalities of social status and gender are worrying causes of instability in the building of peace," said the cardinal.

In that part dedicated to the "ecology of peace," the Pope poses a series of questions that "highlight how the problem of the relationship with nature is closely associated with the construction, among mankind and between nations, of ecological human relationships, in other words, relationships that respect the dignity of the person and his or her authentic needs."

"The Holy Father presents the foundations for an ecology of peace and the base upon which to plant the 'tree of peace.' With faith and hope he brings us to understand that it is possible to cultivate this tree, so long as we let ourselves be guided by a correct and as-broad-as-possible vision of the human person, because the reduction of man, of his value and his dignity, is often paid for with conflict."

"The Pope's Message," said the cardinal, "affirms that peace has become difficult also because of indifference as to what constitutes man's true nature. Such an attitude is very dangerous for peace, which cannot be built upon emptiness and indifference because, in such circumstances, reciprocal recognition is merely formal, conventional, provisional."

In the third part of the Message, Benedict XVI makes it clear that "true and stable peace presupposes respect for human rights anchored in a strong conception of the human person. Rights express the requirements of man's nature as it arose in the Creation. They tell us what men and women need in their existence in order to be able to be themselves with dignity. They tell us how we must treat man in order to respect his dignity. Human rights cannot sustain the continuous attacks to which they are subject if they do not rediscover this significance."

The Holy Father, said Cardinal Martino, goes on to recall "the original vocation of international organizations, especially the United Nations, and encourages them to be guardians of the promotion of human rights. He also returns this year to the value of international humanitarian law," with reflections "inspired by realism and by trust." Finally, he expresses his concern "at the fact that some countries have expressed the desire to supply themselves with nuclear weapons."

"The conclusion of Benedict XVI's Message is entirely dedicated to Catholics, who are called to be tireless workers for peace and energetic defenders of the dignity of the human person. The sentiment of belonging to the Church must be lived with a generous dedication towards everyone, especially towards people suffering poverty and privation, and who lack the precious gift of peace."

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