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Pope prays for tsunami victims, world peace

From today's annual Vatican New Year's Day Message

"I send a special greeting to the ambassadors of those countries that have been struck in these days by the enormous cataclysm," the 84-year old Pontiff told thousands of pilgrims and Church dignitaries at his traditional New Year's Day mass.

"In the face of multiple manifestations of evil, that are injuring the human family, the first priority is to further peace through common means, giving importance to dialogue, to acts of justice and forgiveness," the Polish pope said.

The peace message, released earlier in December, is one of the most glum of Pope John Paul's pontificate, describing social and political evil spreading through the world causing war, injustice, violence and desperation.

In it the Pope says Iraq seems locked in insecurity and uncertainty, the Middle East sometimes appears to be broken beyond repair, Africa is mired in desperation and terrorism has hung a cloud of anguish over the globe.

"This is the road Christians and believers in different religions are called on to walk together acknowledging the universal moral law," he said in a relatively clear voice.

The full peace message can be found here.

Some excerpts below:

"At the beginning of the New Year, I once again address the leaders of nations and all men and women of good will, who recognize the need to build peace in the world. For the theme of this 2005 World Day of Peace I have chosen Saint Paul's words in the Letter to the Romans: "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good" (12:21). Evil is never defeated by evil; once that road is taken, rather than defeating evil, one will instead be defeated by evil.

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. If we consider the tragic scenario of violent fratricidal conflicts in different parts of the world, and the untold sufferings and injustices to which they have given rise, the only truly constructive choice is, as Saint Paul proposes, to flee what is evil and hold fast to what is good (cf. Rom 12:9).

In this light, the evils of a social and political nature which afflict the world, particularly those provoked by outbreaks of violence, are to be vigorously condemned. I think immediately of the beloved continent of Africa, where conflicts which have already claimed millions of victims are still continuing. Or the dangerous situation of Palestine, the Land of Jesus, where the fabric of mutual understanding, torn by a conflict which is fed daily by acts of violence and reprisal, cannot yet be mended in justice and truth. And what of the troubling phenomenon of terrorist violence, which appears to be driving the whole world towards a future of fear and anguish? Finally, how can we not think with profound regret of the drama unfolding in Iraq, which has given rise to tragic situations of uncertainty and insecurity for all?

The good of peace will be better ensured if the international community takes on greater responsibility for what are commonly called public goods. These are goods which all citizens automatically enjoy, without having consciously chosen them or contributed to them in any way. Such is the case, for example, at the national level, with such goods as the judiciary system, the defence system and the network of highways and railways. In our world the phenomenon of increased globalization means that more and more public goods are taking on a global character, and as a result common interests are daily increasing. We need but think of the fight against poverty, the promotion of peace and security, concern for climate change and disease control. The international community needs to respond to these interests with a broader network of juridical accords aimed at regulating the use of public goods and inspired by universal principles of fairness and solidarity.

The principle of the universal destination of goods can also make possible a more effective approach to the challenge of poverty, particularly when we consider the extreme poverty in which millions of people are still living. The international community, at the beginning of the new millennium, set the priority of halving their number by the year 2015. The Church supports and encourages this commitment and invites all who believe in Christ to show, practically and in every sector, a preferential love for the poor.

Faced with the many tragic situations present in the world, Christians confess with humble trust that God alone can enable individuals and peoples to overcome evil and achieve good. By his death and resurrection, Christ has redeemed us and ransomed us "with a price" (1 Cor 6:20; 7:23), gaining salvation for all. With his help, everyone can defeat evil with good.

Based on the certainty that evil will not prevail, Christians nourish an invincible hope which sustains their efforts to promote justice and peace. Despite the personal and social sins which mark all human activity, hope constantly gives new impulse to the commitment to justice and peace, as well as firm confidence in the possibility of building a better world.

Although the "mystery of iniquity" (2 Th 2:7) is present and active in the world, we must not forget that redeemed humanity is capable of resisting it. Each believer, created in the image of God and redeemed by Christ, "who in a certain way has united himself to each human being"(18), can cooperate in the triumph of good. The work of "the Spirit of the Lord fills the earth" (cf. Wis 1:7). Christians, especially the lay faithful, "should not, then, hide their hope in the depth of their hearts, but rather express it through the structures of their secular lives in continual conversion and in wrestling ‘against the world rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of iniquity' (Eph 6:12)"(19).

No man or woman of good will can renounce the struggle to overcome evil with good. This fight can be fought effectively only with the weapons of love. When good overcomes evil, love prevails and where love prevails, there peace prevails. This is the teaching of the Gospel, restated by the Second Vatican Council: "the fundamental law of human perfection, and consequently of the transformation of the world, is the new commandment of love"(20).

The same is true in the social and political spheres. In this regard, Pope LeoXIII wrote that those charged with preserving peace in relations between peoples should foster in themselves and kindle in others "charity, the mistress and queen of all the virtues"(21). Christians must be convinced witnesses of this truth. They should show by their lives that love is the only force capable of bringing fulfilment to persons and societies, the only force ca- pable of directing the course of history in the way of goodness and peace.

Through the new life which Christ has bestowed on us, we can recognize one another as brothers and sisters, despite every difference of language, nationality and culture. In a word, by sharing in the one bread and the one cup, we come to realize that we are "God's family" and that together we can make our own effective contribution to building a world based on the values of justice, freedom and peace."
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