Pope Francis called for abolishing the death penalty worldwide, lifting the burden of debt on poor nations, global aid policies that respect life and revamped laws that welcome and integrate migrants.
He urged individuals, communities and nations to not let indifference, information overload or pessimism discourage them from concrete efforts “to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors and places of employment.” Building peace, he said, is not accomplished by words alone but through the grace of God, a conversion of heart, an attitude of compassion and the courage to act against despair.
The pope’s multifaceted plea came in his message for World Peace Day, Jan. 1. The message, titled “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” was delivered to world leaders by Vatican ambassadors and was released at the Vatican on Dec. 15; it contains a three-fold appeal to the world’s leaders.
Pope Francis asked that countries: “refrain from drawing other peoples into conflicts of wars,” which not only destroy a nation’s infrastructure and cultural heritage, but also their “moral and spiritual integrity”; forgive or make less burdensome international debt of poorer nations; and “adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of the local populations” and not harm the “fundamental and inalienable right to life of the unborn.”
Also part of building peace in the world, he said, is addressing the urgent problem of improving the living conditions of prisoners, especially those still awaiting trial. Since rehabilitation should be the aim of penal sanctions, effective alternatives to incarceration should be considered as well as the abolition of the death penalty.
The pope called on national governments to review their current laws on immigration and find ways they could “reflect a readiness to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration.”
All nations’ leaders should also take concrete measures to alleviate the problem of a lack of housing, land and employment, the pope wrote, as well as to stop discrimination against women in the workplace, which includes unfair wages and precarious or dangerous working conditions. He said he hoped those who are ill could be guaranteed access to medical treatment, necessary medications and home care.
The pope’s message focused on the dangers of cynicism and indifference against God, neighbor and creation.
“Disregard and the denial of God,” he said, “have produced untold cruelty and violence.” And the exploitation of natural resources and mistreatment of animals have an effect “on the way we treat other people.”
“With the present Jubilee of Mercy, I want to invite the church to pray and work so that every Christian will have a humble and compassionate heart” and that all people will learn “to forgive and to give,” he said in his message.
God is never indifferent to the world, he said. He not only sees, hears and knows, he “comes down and delivers” real healing and eternal teachings.
The pope welcomed one effort that offers a glimmer of hope for a more peaceful world, expressing his satisfaction with a resolution adopted on Dec. 18 by the U.N. Security Council to resolve the Syrian conflict. For the first time, diplomats from the United States, Russia and other world powers agreed to a political roadmap toward the end of the civil war in Syria, though many obstacles remain. “I am moved to turn my thoughts to beloved Syria and express my great appreciation for the agreement just reached by the international community,” Pope Francis said, following the Angelus prayer in St. Peter’s Square on Dec. 20. “I encourage everyone to continue energetically down the path to an end of violence and a negotiated solution for peace,” he added.