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Presentation on Message for World Day of Peace

12/17/2004 - 6:00 AM PST

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"Right to Peace and to Development"

VATICAN CITY, DEC. 17, 2004 (Zenit) - Here is the address delivered today by Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, when presenting to the press the message of John Paul II for World Day of Peace 2005.

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I am pleased to be with you for the presentation of the Message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for the 2005 World Day of Peace. For this occasion, the Holy Father has chosen as the theme for reflection a verse from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). With typical incisiveness, the great Apostle invites us to a discernment, both personal and communal, on the crucial questions of evil and its dramatic influence on human lives and admonishes us to take up, with mature responsibility, the good and its diffusion. Using the Letter to the Romans as an inspiring and orienting background, which is often cited in the first part of the document, the whole papal message addresses the theme of peace within an articulated and complex reflection on good and evil. The Holy Father affirms, "The great Apostle brings out a fundamental truth: peace is the outcome of a long and demanding battle which is only won when evil is defeated by good" (No. 1). In this context peace is defined as a "good to be promoted with good: it is a good for individuals, for families, for nations and for all humanity; yet it is one which needs to be maintained and fostered by decisions and actions inspired by good" (No. 1).

The papal message is structured in three parts, in which the theme of peace is addressed progressively in relation to various aspects and levels of good. In the first part, peace is considered in its rapport with the moral good. In the second, peace is seen in its rapport with a classic principle of the social doctrine of the Church, the principle of the common good. In the third, peace is treated in its close connection with the use of the goods of the earth and with a very pertinent reference to another great principle of the social doctrine, the universal destination of goods. Peace, therefore, as its own good, is presented in its close connection with the moral good, the common good and the goods of the earth.

Evil and good: their moral connotation

At the center of the drama of evil is a protagonist: the human person with his liberty and his sin. Evil could not occur if the human person was not made radically free. Human liberty is at the center of the drama of evil and it will accompany it until the end. With the validation of human liberty, the Holy Father refutes all readings and interpretations of the history of man characterized by a vision of evil as an "impersonal, deterministic force at work in the world" (No. 2). In order to delineate the moral profile of evil, the Pope expresses himself with very effective words and strong impact: "Evil always has a name and a face; the name and face of those men and women who freely choose it" (No. 2). Evil, which philosophic thought has described as a "privatio boni," as a privation of good, is in fact a negative movement that the human will commits "when it abandons that which is superior and turns towards something inferior."1 With careful consideration of evil it is easy to find in it and its manifestations a sinful movement of the human will that casts doubt on the fundamental relations of the person with God and with other persons. The Holy Father affirms: "Evil definitely is a tragic rejection of the demands of love,"2 while the moral good is considered closely connected to love because it "is born of love, shows itself as love and is directed to love" (No. 2).

After these brief but weighty references to the moral connotation of good and evil, the Holy Father dwells on a very important point, if considered in the complex horizon of Catholic social teaching: in order to face the multiple social and political manifestations of evil, modern humanity must treasure the common patrimony of moral values received as a gift from God. In this part of the message, the Holy Father revives his teaching on the natural law that, in 1995, I heard expounded in his Address to the United Nations General Assembly, during which he implored all, with courage and prophetic farsightedness, to refer, in their common service to peace, to the grammar of the universal moral law, the only capable way to unite people among themselves in their diversity of cultures.

In considering the value of the grammar of the universal moral law, the Holy Father condemns violence generally and stigmatizes four situations of violence in our time: conflicts in Africa, the dangerous situation of Palestine, terrorism which seems to push the whole world towards a future of fear and anxiety, and the Iraqi drama which multiplies uncertainly and ...

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