Pope Francis is urging Christians to engage in peacemaking by taking a journey of hope, listening, reconciliation and ecological conversion in his message for the World Day of Peace 2020 (Jan. 1).

Calling peace “a great and precious value,” Pope Francis observed that hope enables perseverance in the face of obstacles that disrupt and seek to undo peacemaking initiatives.

Such barriers include the inherited disruptions of past wars and the continued unrest resulting from present conflicts, as well as manifestations of mistrust and fear, exploitation and division.

The pontiff cited the testimony of survivors of the atomic bombs dropped by the U.S. during World War II to emphasize the importance of listening.

Memory is “the horizon of hope,” he said, and we must pay attention to victims, hearing what has happened, and is happening, to them “so that the conscience of humanity may rise up in the face of every desire for dominance and destruction.”

Peacemaking must be done in solidarity and community, the pope emphasized, in order to recognize and respond appropriately to inequalities, rights abuses, exclusion and divisions that hinder work for justice and the common good.

“The world does not need empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue that rejects exclusion or manipulation,” he said, adding later that the peacemaking “is a social undertaking, an ongoing work in which each individual makes his or her contribution responsibly, at every level of the local, national and global community.”

Working for peace necessitates a process of reconciliation and forgiveness – repenting of our personal failings and our complicity in systems of domination and exploitation, as well as committing to a path of respect and humility, community and solidarity, justice and the common good.

Such repentance is not only for actions that wrong our brothers and sisters but also those that harm the created order, Francis noted, in urging “a journey of ecological conversion.”

The world, our common home, is to be cared for, not exploited, as we “share it in joy and moderation.”

The World Day of Peace was first observed on Jan. 1, 1968.

It was marked by the publication of a message by Pope Paul VI, which urged that “this commemoration be repeated as a hope and as a promise, at the beginning of the calendar which measures and outlines the path of human life in time, that Peace with its just and beneficent equilibrium may dominate the development of events to come.”

The full message of Pope Francis is available here.

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