In his New Year’s Day greeting to the tens of thousands of pilgrims gathered in Saint Peter’s Square on Thursday, Pope Francis called for 2015 to be a “year of peace” and expressed his hope that “there may never again be wars. No more wars!” he said.
Francis said that the nearness of God to humanity celebrated at Christmas brings peace to the world and is a “divine gift” that “we implore especially today,” when the Catholic Church celebrates its World Day of Peace.
“Peace is always possible,” the Pope said, then repeated that it is “always possible!” Francis went on to say that “we have to look for it,” and he insisted that “prayer [is] at the root of peace.”
“Wars make us slaves, always!” Francis said, and this is “a message that affects everyone.” The Pontiff also called for “peace education” and again insisted that “at the root of peace, there is always prayer.”
Peace has been one of the leitmotifs of Francis’ whole pontificate, especially in the case of the ongoing conflict in the Middle East, where Islamic jihadists have been terrorizing entire populations.
Despite his constant calls for peace, however, Pope Francis has recognized the need to resort to force against violent aggressors, notably in the case of the Islamic State (ISIS). “In these cases, where there is an unjust aggression, I can only say that it is licit to stop the unjust aggressor,” Francis said.
In early August, the Pope invited the presidents of Palestine and Israel, Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, as well as several religious leaders, to the Vatican to pray for peace in the Middle East and throughout the world.
On that occasion, Francis said that the “world is a legacy bequeathed to us from past generations,” and is “on loan to us from our children: our children who are weary, worn out by conflicts and yearning for the dawn of peace.” These children, the Pope said, “plead with us to tear down the walls of enmity and to set out on the path of dialogue and peace, so that love and friendship will prevail.”
“Peacemaking calls for courage,” the Pope said, “much more so than warfare.”
Follow Thomas D. Williams on Twitter @tdwilliamsrome.