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The signs of hope: peace

From Pope John Paul II's Message for the Celebration of World Peace Day, 1/1/98

The human person is by nature endowed with universal, inviolable and inalienable rights. These rights do not however exist in isolation. In this respect my venerable predecessor Pope John XXIII taught that the person "has rights and duties, flowing directly and simultaneously from his very nature1. It is upon the correct anthropological foundation of these rights and duties, and upon their intrinsic correlation, that the true bulwark of peace rests.

And what are we to say of the grave inequalities existing within nations? Situations of extreme poverty, wherever they are found, constitute a prime injustice. Eliminating them ought to be a priority for everyone, at the national as well as the international level.
Nor can we pass over in silence the evil of corruption which is undermining the social and political development of so many peoples. It is a growing phenomenon insidiously infiltrating many sectors of society, mocking the law and ignoring the rules of justice and of truth. Corruption is hard to combat, because it takes many different forms: when it has been suppressed in one area, it springs up in another. Courage is needed just to denounce it. To eliminate it, together with the resolute determination of the authorities, the generous support of all citizens is needed, sustained by a firm moral conscience.

The Jubilee of the Year 2000 is fast approaching, a time which for believers is devoted in a special way to God, the Lord of history, a reminder to all of the radical dependence of the creature on the Creator. But in the Biblical tradition it was also a time for freeing slaves, for returning land to its rightful owner, for forgiving debts, thus restoring the conditions of equality willed by God among all the members of the people. It is therefore a special time for seeking that justice which leads us to peace.
By virtue of their faith in the God who is love and of their sharing in Christ's universal redemption, Christians are called to act justly and to live in peace with all, for «Jesus does not merely give us peace. He gives us his Peace accompanied by his Justice. He is Peace and Justice. He becomes our Peace and our Justice»2 I said these words almost 20 years ago, but against the backdrop of the radical changes now taking place they assume an even more specific and vital meaning.


1) Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), I: AAS 55 (1963), 259.
2) John Paul II, Homily at the Yankee Stadium in New York (2 October 1979), 1: AAS 71 (1979), 1169