The Student Cross pilgrimage to Walsingham, Saturday 23rd – Sunday 31st March: walking 20 miles per day, carrying a life-size Cross, praying and sharing together Holy Week. An extraordinarily graced opportunity.
The Student Cross website contains our route page has information about our route and our booking page has the form available too.
We are on facebook too facebook event for the pilgrimage this year and a facebook group
Religion and Personal Life
Organised and chaired by the Rt Hon Charles Clarke and Prof Linda Woodhead
What does faith, in its diversity, have to contribute to our understanding of a good life and a good death? And what does the contemporary climate of opinion have to say to faith?
Each debate brings together a range of religious and secular voices to discuss controversial issues, informed by recent research and new findings from a specially commissioned YouGov survey.
Stem cell research, abortion and the ‘soul of the embryo’?
Prof John Harris, Dr Gerard J Hughes SJ, Prof David Albert Jones, Dr Abdul Majid Katme
Weds 13th Feb
Too much sex these days – the sexualisation of society?
Prof Donna Freitas, Dr Jenny Taylor, Maureen Kendler, TBA
Weds 27th Feb
Is it right for religions to treat men and women differently?
Fatima Barkatullah, Rabbi Harvey Belovski, Marie Ann Sieghart, Prof Linda Woodhead
Thurs 14th March
What’s a traditional family and do we need it?
Prof Rosalind Edwards, Polly Toynbee, Prof Ronald Hutton, TBA
Weds 27th March
Do Christians really oppose same-sex marriage?
Prof Stephen Holmes, Prof John Milbank. Prof Tina Beattie, Lord Deben (John Selwyn Gummer)
Thurs 18th April
Should we legislate to permit assisted dying?
Lord Charles Falconer, Dr Giles Fraser, Baronness Illora Finlay, Prof Rob George
Thurs 2nd May
All debates are free of charge and take place between 5.30 pm and 7.00 pm (followed by drinks reception) at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Westminster SW1P 3EE
To register for a place please contact email@example.com with the name, institution (if applicable) and email address of each person you wish to register, or tel. 01524 510826
Funded by the AHRC, ESRC and Lancaster University
http://www.religionandsociety.org.uk/faith_debates-2013 for further details.
8.15, University Church of St Mary the Virgin, High Street, Tuesday 12 February
Sermon in the week of prayer for Christian Unity 20th January 2013
Oxford Catholic Chaplaincy by Rev’d Dr. Jonathan Arnold, Chaplain, Worcester College.
Isaiah 62: 1-5; Ps 95; 1 Cor 12: 4-11; Jon 2: 1-11
O come, let us worship and bow down,
let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
It is very good to be with you this morning in this week of prayer for Christian Unity and thank you to Father Simon for the invitation to preach. I’m also very much looking forward to Fr. Nicholas King from Campion Hall preaching at Worcester Chapel this evening.
At college each Monday in term I hold a discussion group over lunch. This term we are looking at the ten commandments, so of course last Monday we considered the first one: ‘I am the lord your God, you shall have no other Gods before me’. In the chat, we discussed how, in a multi-faith, pluralist and partly secular society, this commandment was to be kept whilst respecting each other’s faith. Can Muslims, Jews, Hindus and Christians all believe they are right and yet genuinely respect each other’s beliefs? One answer that emerged was the metaphor that people had been told at school, that we are all like blindfolded people trying to describe an elephant purely by the sense of touch. The person at the trunk end has a completely different idea of what the animal is than the person at the tail end or at the side. This, apparently, is how different people approach their notion of God. Each person has part of the truth but no individual or religion or denomination has the whole truth, and yet everyone is talking about the same God.
Now, I had never come across this analogy before and initially I thought it was fine and it created much merriment. But it also left me feeling uneasy. It seemed to be, frankly, a little bland – that everyone has a little bit of the truth but no one can ever have a chance of a full revelation of God. The idea that there is one big truth that everyone can see a little part of and yet which no one can fully comprehend seems appealing, but we are still left with the questions of who has the truth and who is being deceived, and surely someone must be more right than someone else? And if no one can ever get anywhere near the truth, and everyone’s view is equally valid, why bother looking for enlightenment at all? I rather think that many secularists have done precisely that. Given the plethora of religions and spiritualities out there they shrug their shoulders and say, well might as well believe nothing.
In this week of prayer for Christian unity I find myself unified with other Christians, in all our diversity, in a religion in which I can wholeheartedly believe, as I would expect a good Muslim to wholeheartedly believe in his or her religion, without the need for aggression against another’s point of view, or complacency about all religions. Indeed, having to assess just what we believe and why can be a very positive exercise. One can find that struggling with the more difficult questions of our faith is well worth while and very good for us. When I was researching for a book recently I interviewed the Scottish Catholic composer James MacMillan who related an interesting story about when he was at University and how his Chaplain arranged a forum for just this kind of scrutiny of faith:
In Edinburgh, my chaplain there was a young man, Aidan Nicholls. He laid on these talks [entitled] ‘Objections to Catholicism’, and it was just one speaker after another coming in and laying into our faith. It was a dialogue. They presented their objections to faith. Some of them were Marxist, some of them were atheists of a pre-Dawkins type and some of them were of an extreme Protestant type – Ian Paisley type figures. I think a lot of students were absolutely shocked. Not just shocked by the aggression but shocked by hearing strident opposition to the faith for the first time, and saw their faith was not just challenged but undermined by it. But that’s the risk you’ve got to take. Some of us took a different line – let’s deal with the objections head on and try to enunciate our response. I think that’s what happens in these days of increased aggression against Christianity. The Church will get better for it and purify itself. I think it already has become less slovenly in its actions as well as in its thoughts. I’m quite excited about it. It may be unpleasant at times but I feel it’s doing us good.
I like James’ attitude. He has a firm idea of what he believes and has not been shy in making that public, but he is also delighted to hold dialogue with those of differing opinions, not because he goes into a belligerent position of insisting his truth over anothers, nor shrugs his shoulders to say that we are all correct in our own way, but welcoming the opportunity to scrutinize his own stance and to be forced to justify it. Diversity of opinion in our society does not have to lead to aggression or banality. As St. Paul tells the community in Corinth, there are many different roles and positions to take but there is unity in the Spirit. This acknowledges that real truth is to be found in the Spirit. The Spirit of Christ himself, our salvation and our example is one of supreme generosity, as we heard in the story of the Wedding at Cana, providing the best possible wine even at the end of days of celebrations. God’s generosity is in abundance in creation; in nature, in art, and in love and his ultimate sacrifice for us. Of course, it is our tragedy that it is so often squandered by greed, corruption and selfishness or power. Christ assured his disciples that after him would come the Spirit that would lead them into all truth and that same Spirit which came upon the disciples is there for us today. So how do we gain access to this Spirit of truth, to this unity in the Spirit? For, surely the Holy Spirit provides the strength for all Christians to find unity and harmony in our relations, whilst keeping our own identities and characters, and we must not just pray for a closer bond of love in this week of prayer for unity but throughout the year, both in our silent petitions and by our prayer in action, reaching out to one another in that same Spirit given by God.
So where do we start? Perhaps today’s psalm provides a clue. The Psalms speak of our humanity in all its experience and emotion. As the Christian philosopher Roger Scruton puts it, ‘Every single possible religious attitude is expressed in them … The fact that the Psalms are in all our church services, both Anglican and Catholic, gives them a special place …’.
Psalm 95 particularly shows us where we should place ourselves in the picture.
O come, let us sing to the LORD;
let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!
Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;
let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!
For the LORD is a great God,
and a great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth;
the heights of the mountains are his also.
The sea is his, for he made it,
and the dry land, which his hands have formed.
Our response to God’s generosity is joy, music, is the bow down and to worship , to sing and be joyful for all the blessings he has given us, and to be one in our gratitude, our praise, our worship, our prayer, and our love for God and for one another, and so follow the two great commandments to love our God and our neighbour.
For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
For God has given us every possible blessing in Jesus Christ, who understands our suffering, pain, and loss as well as our joy and our happiness. He is with all of us in everything, and especially in this season of Epiphany we rejoice in his revelation to the world. This week, and every week, may we continue to pray for unity of love and purpose of the diverse Christian denominations throughout the world, and let’s also rejoice in the source of our faith and his generosity to us that has brought us life, and life eternal. Thanks be to God. Amen.
I’m sure that, like me, many of you were glued to the Olympics over the summer. One of the reasons I enjoyed the Games so much was that it was so refreshing to get excited about winning, about who is fastest or strongest, who is the greatest in a particular sport or race. It felt good to celebrate achievement, when it so often seems that in today’s Britain achievement is something to be ashamed of: Everyone’s a winner; it’s the taking part that matters, we should all get gold stars just for being. As if being the greatest is somehow offensive, or impolitic, or contrary to some nebulous notion of diversity.
Actually, the world is rather more comfortable with ambition, and achievement, and self-promotion. You are number one; Nobody loves a loser; nice guys finish last—these echo deep values of our contemporary world. There are no gold medals and adulation for those who come last. It’s that sort of mindset that see in the disciples in this morning’s Gospel. Jesus is on his final journey to Jerusalem and says that there he will suffer and die. Far from expressing sorrow or sympathy, James and John skip the thought of suffering and move to the thought of resurrection and ask Jesus to let them sit at his right and left when he enters his glory. They want to be more important than anyone else. They want position, and power, and status. They want to win! Jesus answers that they may get what they ask for, but they certainly will follow his way of suffering.
But then the other 10 disciples also miss the point and start shouting at James and John for they too want some share in power. Earlier in the Gospel of Mark when Jesus predicted that he would suffer their reaction was to argue about who would be the greatest, who would be first.
Jesus then gives them a lesson on what power should be among those who follow him – those who followed him then, and those who choose to be his disciples today. Gentile rulers lord it over their subjects, and their great ones throw their weight around. Throughout the Gospel of Mark Jesus describes the way things work in the world – in a world that lives apart from the message he proclaims: what people want for themselves: self-centeredness; saving one’s own life; acquiring the world; being great; lording it over others; being anxious about wealth. But Jesus rejects this way in a ringing statement. “But it shall not be so among you. ”
“But it shall not be so among you.”
Jesus speaks of his way of being powerful which is paradoxically the way of the loser:
Whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.
Jesus points not to a way of being number one, of lording it over and dominating others, but a way of service. True followers are to be available to others with help and service. If we must compete with each other, we must compete in this way. We must outdo each other in doing good. Jesus gives himself as an example of such service; he did not come to be waited on by others but to serve and give his life for others. Throughout the Gospel Jesus serves by being with the sick and suffering of this world, by feeding the hungry and speaking up for those who are weak and oppressed and marginalised and forgotten and despised. And he will give his life as a ransom. A ransom is a price paid to free. The price paid to free us from slavery – slavery to this world, slavery to ourselves. Jesus’ offering was to be a liberating offering and we his followers are to be engaged in liberating service. We are to help free each other from all that would bind us and imprison us.
In simple terms the Gospel calls on us, you and I, contemporary followers of Jesus, to reject a life-path that leads to power and dominance of others – be that in the Church, or in business, or in college, or in our everyday relationships and personal encounters. So often it is among ordinary Christians that we see the example of Jesus lived out. This liberating service shines forth in parents at the bed of a sick child, in a spouse caring for another with Alzheimer’s disease; in a person like St Marianne Cope who spent her life caring for the lepers of Hawaii – St Marianne, incidentally is being canonised by the Holy Father this very morning; in a person like Sr. Dorothy Stang, a Notre Dame sister who was murdered in Brazil in 2005 for protesting the exploitation of the indigenous peoples of the Amazon. And whose last words as she was shot in the head were “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.
We do not have to look to Hawaii or Brazil to find examples of liberating service. Here at the Chaplaincy there is the SVP, there is CAFOD, and the Companions of the Order of Malta; our city has numerous organisations and institutions to serve the homeless, the abused, those who need shelter, a hot meal, a new start. But opportunities of service, real Christian service, liberating and life-giving service, are never far from us – they exist in the Church and outside, among strangers and friends, even in our own families and communities. Today is Mission Sunday, and such service is at the very heart of the Church’s Mission – it IS the Church’s mission. Our mission is not to be served, but to serve, and to give our lives.
Of course, we are to think and to pray specifically today about the Church’s mission of spreading the Gospel, the Good News of our Redemption in Christ. That Gospel can only effectively spread and take root in the hearts and minds of those who do not yet know Jesus if those charged with preaching it – that’s you and me – live lives of service, really give of ourselves, really show our beliefs in the way we act and the way we love.
Those of you who are students know that your task at university is to learn and grow to the best of your abilities – and there is certainly a lot of competition here – both good and bad. But your fundamental, Christian task as human beings is not to be number one, but to become real losers, nice guys (and girls) who finish last – that is, last in the game of exploiting others and in pursuing selfish life goals, but who lose yourselves in serving others. After all Jesus said that the one who loses his or her life will save it, that is find true life – true, real, abundant, amazing, grace-filled life, in community with others and in union with Christ.
Pope Benedict XVI’s Message for World Day of Peace 2013:
Blessed are the Peacemakers
1. EACH NEW YEAR brings the expectation of a better world. In light of this, I ask God, the Father of humanity, to grant us concord and peace, so that the aspirations of all for a happy and prosperous life may be achieved.
Fifty years after the beginning of the Second Vatican Council, which helped to strengthen the Church’s mission in the world, it is heartening to realize that Christians, as the People of God in fellowship with him and sojourning among mankind, are committed within history to sharing humanity’s joys and hopes, grief and anguish, as they proclaim the salvation of Christ and promote peace for all.
In effect, our times, marked by globalization with its positive and negative aspects, as well as the continuation of violent conflicts and threats of war, demand a new, shared commitment in pursuit of the common good and the development of all men, and of the whole man.
It is alarming to see hotbeds of tension and conflict caused by growing instances of inequality between rich and poor, by the prevalence of a selfish and individualistic mindset which also finds expression in an unregulated financial capitalism. In addition to the varied forms of terrorism and international crime, peace is also endangered by those forms of fundamentalism and fanaticism which distort the true nature of religion, which is called to foster fellowship and reconciliation among people.
All the same, the many different efforts at peacemaking which abound in our world testify to mankind’s innate vocation to peace. In every person the desire for peace is an essential aspiration which coincides in a certain way with the desire for a full, happy and successful human life. In other words, the desire for peace corresponds to a fundamental moral principle, namely, the duty and right to an integral social and communitarian development, which is part of God’s plan for mankind. Man is made for the peace which is God’s gift.
All of this led me to draw inspiration for this Message from the words of Jesus Christ: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Mt 5:9).
2. The beatitudes which Jesus proclaimed (cf. Mt 5:3-12 and Lk 6:20-23) are promises. In the biblical tradition, the beatitude is a literary genre which always involves some good news, a “gospel”, which culminates in a promise. Therefore, the beatitudes are not only moral exhortations whose observance foresees in due time – ordinarily in the next life – a reward or a situation of future happiness. Rather, the blessedness of which the beatitudes speak consists in the fulfilment of a promise made to all those who allow themselves to be guided by the requirements of truth, justice and love. In the eyes of the world, those who trust in God and his promises often appear naïve or far from reality. Yet Jesus tells them that not only in the next life, but already in this life, they will discover that they are children of God, and that God has always been, and ever will be, completely on their side. They will understand that they are not alone, because he is on the side of those committed to truth, justice and love. Jesus, the revelation of the Father’s love, does not hesitate to offer himself in self-sacrifice. Once we accept Jesus Christ, God and man, we have the joyful experience of an immense gift: the sharing of God’s own life, the life of grace, the pledge of a fully blessed existence. Jesus Christ, in particular, grants us true peace, which is born of the trusting encounter of man with God.
Jesus’ beatitude tells us that peace is both a messianic gift and the fruit of human effort. In effect, peace presupposes a humanism open to transcendence. It is the fruit of the reciprocal gift, of a mutual enrichment, thanks to the gift which has its source in God and enables us to live with others and for others. The ethics of peace is an ethics of fellowship and sharing. It is indispensable, then, that the various cultures in our day overcome forms of anthropology and ethics based on technical and practical suppositions which are merely subjectivistic and pragmatic, in virtue of which relationships of coexistence are inspired by criteria of power or profit, means become ends and vice versa, and culture and education are centred on instruments, technique and efficiency alone. The precondition for peace is the dismantling of the dictatorship of relativism and of the supposition of a completely autonomous morality which precludes acknowledgment of the ineluctable natural moral law inscribed by God upon the conscience of every man and woman. Peace is the building up of coexistence in rational and moral terms, based on a foundation whose measure is not created by man, but rather by God. As Psalm 29 puts it: “May the Lord give strength to his people; may the Lord bless his people with peace” (v. 11).
Peace: God’s gift and the fruit of human effort 3. Peace concerns the human person as a whole, and it involves complete commitment. It is peace with God through a life lived according to his will. It is interior peace with oneself, and exterior peace with our neighbours and all creation. Above all, as Blessed John XXIII wrote in his Encyclical Pacem in Terris, whose fiftieth anniversary will fall in a few months, it entails the building up of a coexistence based on truth, freedom, love and justice. The denial of what makes up the true nature of human beings in its essential dimensions, its intrinsic capacity to know the true and the good and, ultimately, to know God himself, jeopardizes peacemaking. Without the truth about man inscribed by the Creator in the human heart, freedom and love become debased, and justice loses the ground of its exercise.
To become authentic peacemakers, it is fundamental to keep in mind our transcendent dimension and to enter into constant dialogue with God, the Father of mercy, whereby we implore the redemption achieved for us by his only-begotten Son. In this way mankind can overcome that progressive dimming and rejection of peace which is sin in all its forms: selfishness and violence, greed and the will to power and dominion, intolerance, hatred and unjust structures.
The attainment of peace depends above all on recognizing that we are, in God, one human family. This family is structured, as the Encyclical Pacem in Terris taught, by interpersonal relations and institutions supported and animated by a communitarian “we”, which entails an internal and external moral order in which, in accordance with truth and justice, reciprocal rights and mutual duties are sincerely recognized. Peace is an order enlivened and integrated by love, in such a way that we feel the needs of others as our own, share our goods with others and work throughout the world for greater communion in spiritual values. It is an order achieved in freedom, that is, in a way consistent with the dignity of persons who, by their very nature as rational beings, take responsibility for their own actions.
Peace is not a dream or something utopian; it is possible. Our gaze needs to go deeper, beneath superficial appearances and phenomena, to discern a positive reality which exists in human hearts, since every man and woman has been created in the image of God and is called to grow and contribute to the building of a new world. God himself, through the incarnation of his Son and his work of redemption, has entered into history and has brought about a new creation and a new covenant between God and man (cf. Jer 31:31-34), thus enabling us to have a “new heart” and a “new spirit” (cf. Ez 36:26).
For this very reason the Church is convinced of the urgency of a new proclamation of Jesus Christ, the first and fundamental factor of the integral development of peoples and also of peace. Jesus is indeed our peace, our justice and our reconciliation (cf. Eph 2:14; 2 Cor 5:18). The peacemaker, according to Jesus’ beatitude, is the one who seeks the good of the other, the fullness of good in body and soul, today and tomorrow.
From this teaching one can infer that each person and every community, whether religious, civil, educational or cultural, is called to work for peace. Peace is principally the attainment of the common good in society at its different levels, primary and intermediary, national, international and global. Precisely for this reason it can be said that the paths which lead to the attainment of the common good are also the paths that must be followed in the pursuit of peace.
Peacemakers are those who love, defend and promote life in its fullness
4. The path to the attainment of the common good and to peace is above all that of respect for human life in all its many aspects, beginning with its conception, through its development and up to its natural end. True peacemakers, then, are those who love, defend and promote human life in all its dimensions, personal, communitarian and transcendent. Life in its fullness is the height of peace. Anyone who loves peace cannot tolerate attacks and crimes against life.
Those who insufficiently value human life and, in consequence, support among other things the liberalization of abortion, perhaps do not realize that in this way they are proposing the pursuit of a false peace. The flight from responsibility, which degrades human persons, and even more so the killing of a defenceless and innocent being, will never be able to produce happiness or peace. Indeed how could one claim to bring about peace, the integral development of peoples or even the protection of the environment without defending the life of those who are weakest, beginning with the unborn. Every offence against life, especially at its beginning, inevitably causes irreparable damage to development, peace and the environment. Neither is it just to introduce surreptitiously into legislation false rights or freedoms which, on the basis of a reductive and relativistic view of human beings and the clever use of ambiguous expressions aimed at promoting a supposed right to abortion and euthanasia, pose a threat to the fundamental right to life.
There is also a need to acknowledge and promote the natural structure of marriage as the union of a man and a woman in the face of attempts to make it juridically equivalent to radically different types of union; such attempts actually harm and help to destabilize marriage, obscuring its specific nature and its indispensable role in society.
These principles are not truths of faith, nor are they simply a corollary of the right to religious freedom. They are inscribed in human nature itself, accessible to reason and thus common to all humanity. The Church’s efforts to promote them are not therefore confessional in character, but addressed to all people, whatever their religious affiliation. Efforts of this kind are all the more necessary the more these principles are denied or misunderstood, since this constitutes an offence against the truth of the human person, with serious harm to justice and peace.
Consequently, another important way of helping to build peace is for legal systems and the administration of justice to recognize the right to invoke the principle of conscientious objection in the face of laws or government measures that offend against human dignity, such as abortion and euthanasia.
One of the fundamental human rights, also with reference to international peace, is the right of individuals and communities to religious freedom. At this stage in history, it is becoming increasingly important to promote this right not only from the negative point of view, as freedom from – for example, obligations or limitations involving the freedom to choose one’s religion – but also from the positive point of view, in its various expressions, as freedom for – for example, bearing witness to one’s religion, making its teachings known, engaging in activities in the educational, benevolent and charitable fields which permit the practice of religious precepts, and existing and acting as social bodies structured in accordance with the proper doctrinal principles and institutional ends of each. Sadly, even in countries of long-standing Christian tradition, instances of religious intolerance are becoming more numerous, especially in relation to Christianity and those who simply wear identifying signs of their religion.
Peacemakers must also bear in mind that, in growing sectors of public opinion, the ideologies of radical liberalism and technocracy are spreading the conviction that economic growth should be pursued even to the detriment of the state’s social responsibilities and civil society’s networks of solidarity, together with social rights and duties. It should be remembered that these rights and duties are fundamental for the full realization of other rights and duties, starting with those which are civil and political.
One of the social rights and duties most under threat today is the right to work. The reason for this is that labour and the rightful recognition of workers’ juridical status are increasingly undervalued, since economic development is thought to depend principally on completely free markets. Labour is thus regarded as a variable dependent on economic and financial mechanisms. In this regard, I would reaffirm that human dignity and economic, social and political factors, demand that we continue “to prioritize the goal of access to steady employment for everyone.” If this ambitious goal is to be realized, one prior condition is a fresh outlook on work, based on ethical principles and spiritual values that reinforce the notion of work as a fundamental good for the individual, for the family and for society. Corresponding to this good are a duty and a right that demand courageous new policies of universal employment.
Building the good of peace through a new model of development and economics 5. In many quarters it is now recognized that a new model of development is needed, as well as a new approach to the economy. Both integral, sustainable development in solidarity and the common good require a correct scale of goods and values which can be structured with God as the ultimate point of reference. It is not enough to have many different means and choices at one’s disposal, however good these may be. Both the wide variety of goods fostering development and the presence of a wide range of choices must be employed against the horizon of a good life, an upright conduct that acknowledges the primacy of the spiritual and the call to work for the common good. Otherwise they lose their real value, and end up becoming new idols.
In order to emerge from the present financial and economic crisis – which has engendered ever greater inequalities – we need people, groups and institutions which will promote life by fostering human creativity, in order to draw from the crisis itself an opportunity for discernment and for a new economic model. The predominant model of recent decades called for seeking maximum profit and consumption, on the basis of an individualistic and selfish mindset, aimed at considering individuals solely in terms of their ability to meet the demands of competitiveness. Yet, from another standpoint, true and lasting success is attained through the gift of ourselves, our intellectual abilities and our entrepreneurial skills, since a “liveable” or truly human economic development requires the principle of gratuitousness as an expression of fraternity and the logic of gift.
Concretely, in economic activity, peacemakers are those who establish bonds of fairness and reciprocity with their colleagues, workers, clients and consumers. They engage in economic activity for the sake of the common good and they experience this commitment as something transcending their self-interest, for the benefit of present and future generations. Thus they work not only for themselves, but also to ensure for others a future and a dignified employment.
In the economic sector, states in particular need to articulate policies of industrial and agricultural development concerned with social progress and the growth everywhere of constitutional and democratic states. The creation of ethical structures for currency, financial and commercial markets is also fundamental and indispensable; these must be stabilized and better coordinated and controlled so as not to prove harmful to the very poor. With greater resolve than has hitherto been the case, the concern of peacemakers must also focus upon the food crisis, which is graver than the financial crisis. The issue of food security is once more central to the international political agenda, as a result of interrelated crises, including sudden shifts in the price of basic foodstuffs, irresponsible behaviour by some economic actors and insufficient control on the part of governments and the international community. To face this crisis, peacemakers are called to work together in a spirit of solidarity, from the local to the international level, with the aim of enabling farmers, especially in small rural holdings, to carry out their activity in a dignified and sustainable way from the social, environmental and economic points of view.
Education for a culture of peace: the role of the family and institutions
6. I wish to reaffirm forcefully that the various peacemakers are called to cultivate a passion for the common good of the family and for social justice, and a commitment to effective social education. No one should ignore or underestimate the decisive role of the family, which is the basic cell of society from the demographic, ethical, pedagogical, economic and political standpoints. The family has a natural vocation to promote life: it accompanies individuals as they mature and it encourages mutual growth and enrichment through caring and sharing. The Christian family in particular serves as a seedbed for personal maturation according to the standards of divine love. The family is one of the indispensable social subjects for the achievement of a culture of peace. The rights of parents and their primary role in the education of their children in the area of morality and religion must be safeguarded. It is in the family that peacemakers, tomorrow’s promoters of a culture of life and love, are born and nurtured.
Religious communities are involved in a special way in this immense task of education for peace. The Church believes that she shares in this great responsibility as part of the new evangelization, which is centred on conversion to the truth and love of Christ and, consequently, the spiritual and moral rebirth of individuals and societies. Encountering Jesus Christ shapes peacemakers, committing them to fellowship and to overcoming injustice.
Cultural institutions, schools and universities have a special mission of peace. They are called to make a notable contribution not only to the formation of new generations of leaders, but also to the renewal of public institutions, both national and international. They can also contribute to a scientific reflection which will ground economic and financial activities on a solid anthropological and ethical basis. Today’s world, especially the world of politics, needs to be sustained by fresh thinking and a new cultural synthesis so as to overcome purely technical approaches and to harmonize the various political currents with a view to the common good. The latter, seen as an ensemble of positive interpersonal and institutional relationships at the service of the integral growth of individuals and groups, is at the basis of all true education for peace.
A pedagogy for peacemakers
7. In the end, we see clearly the need to propose and promote a pedagogy of peace. This calls for a rich interior life, clear and valid moral points of reference, and appropriate attitudes and lifestyles. Acts of peacemaking converge for the achievement of the common good; they create interest in peace and cultivate peace. Thoughts, words and gestures of peace create a mentality and a culture of peace, and a respectful, honest and cordial atmosphere. There is a need, then, to teach people to love one another, to cultivate peace and to live with good will rather than mere tolerance. A fundamental encouragement to this is “to say no to revenge, to recognize injustices, to accept apologies without looking for them, and finally, to forgive”, in such a way that mistakes and offences can be acknowledged in truth, so as to move forward together towards reconciliation. This requires the growth of a pedagogy of pardon. Evil is in fact overcome by good, and justice is to be sought in imitating God the Father who loves all his children (cf. Mt 5:21-48). This is a slow process, for it presupposes a spiritual evolution, an education in lofty values, a new vision of human history. There is a need to renounce that false peace promised by the idols of this world along with the dangers which accompany it, that false peace which dulls consciences, which leads to self-absorption, to a withered existence lived in indifference. The pedagogy of peace, on the other hand, implies activity, compassion, solidarity, courage and perseverance.
Jesus embodied all these attitudes in his own life, even to the complete gift of himself, even to “losing his life” (cf. Mt 10:39; Lk 17:33; Jn 12:25). He promises his disciples that sooner or later they will make the extraordinary discovery to which I originally alluded, namely that God is in the world, the God of Jesus, fully on the side of man. Here I would recall the prayer asking God to make us instruments of his peace, to be able to bring his love wherever there is hatred, his mercy wherever there is hurt, and true faith wherever there is doubt. For our part, let us join Blessed John XXIII in asking God to enlighten all leaders so that, besides caring for the proper material welfare of their peoples, they may secure for them the precious gift of peace, break down the walls which divide them, strengthen the bonds of mutual love, grow in understanding, and pardon those who have done them wrong; in this way, by his power and inspiration all the peoples of the earth will experience fraternity, and the peace for which they long will ever flourish and reign among them.
With this prayer I express my hope that all will be true peacemakers, so that the city of man may grow in fraternal harmony, prosperity and peace.
From the Vatican, 8 December 2012
BENEDICTUS PP XVI