Jan. 1, 2019 marks the 52nd World Day of Peace, and this year, Pope Francis speaks on “Good politics at the service of peace.” In his message, the Holy Father touches on how those in the world of politics can advocate for the protection and fulfillment for those whose voices are not heard.
Message of the Holy Father
Good politics at the service of peace
1. “Peace be to this house!”
In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to
this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you”
Bringing peace is central to the mission of Christ’s disciples. That peace is offered to all those men and
women who long for peace amid the tragedies and violence that mark human history. The “house” of which
Jesus speaks is every family, community, country and continent, in all their diversity and history. It is first
and foremost each individual person, without distinction or discrimination. But it is also our “common
home”: the world in which God has placed us and which we are called to care for and cultivate.
So let this be my greeting at the beginning of the New Year: “Peace be to this house!”
2. The challenge of good politics
Peace is like the hope which the poet Charles Péguy celebrated. It is like a delicate flower struggling to
blossom on the stony ground of violence. We know that the thirst for power at any price leads to abuses and
injustice. Politics is an essential means of building human community and institutions, but when political life
is not seen as a form of service to society as a whole, it can become a means of oppression, marginalization
and even destruction.
Jesus tells us that, “if anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mk 9:35). In the words
of Pope Paul VI, “to take politics seriously at its different levels – local, regional, national and worldwide –
is to affirm the duty of each individual to acknowledge the reality and value of the freedom offered him to
work at one and the same time for the good of the city, the nation and all mankind”.
Political office and political responsibility thus constantly challenge those called to the service of their
country to make every effort to protect those who live there and to create the conditions for a worthy and just
future. If exercised with basic respect for the life, freedom and dignity of persons, political life can indeed
become an outstanding form of charity.
3. Charity and human virtues: the basis of politics at the service of human rights and peace
Pope Benedict XVI noted that “every Christian is called to practise charity in a manner corresponding to his
vocation and according to the degree of influence he wields in the pólis… When animated by charity,
commitment to the common good has greater worth than a merely secular and political stand would have…
Man’s earthly activity, when inspired and sustained by charity, contributes to the building of the universal
city of God, which is the goal of the history of the human family”. This is a programme on which all
politicians, whatever their culture or religion, can agree, if they wish to work together for the good of the
human family and to practise those human virtues that sustain all sound political activity: justice, equality,
mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, fidelity.
In this regard, it may be helpful to recall the “Beatitudes of the Politician”, proposed by Vietnamese Cardinal
François-Xavier Nguyễn Vãn Thuận, a faithful witness to the Gospel who died in 2002:
Blessed be the politician with a lofty sense and deep understanding of his role.
Blessed be the politician who personally exemplifies credibility.
Blessed be the politician who works for the common good and not his or her own interest.
Blessed be the politician who remains consistent.
Blessed be the politician who works for unity.
Blessed be the politician who works to accomplish radical change.
Blessed be the politician who is capable of listening.
Blessed be the politician who is without fear.
Every election and re-election, and every stage of public life, is an opportunity to return to the original points
of reference that inspire justice and law. One thing is certain: good politics is at the service of peace. It
respects and promotes fundamental human rights, which are at the same time mutual obligations, enabling a
bond of trust and gratitude to be forged between present and future generations.
4. Political vices
Sadly, together with its virtues, politics also has its share of vices, whether due to personal incompetence or
to flaws in the system and its institutions. Clearly, these vices detract from the credibility of political life
overall, as well as the authority, decisions and actions of those engaged in it. These vices, which undermine
the ideal of an authentic democracy, bring disgrace to public life and threaten social harmony. We think of
corruption in its varied forms: the misappropriation of public resources, the exploitation of individuals, the
denial of rights, the flouting of community rules, dishonest gain, the justification of power by force or the
arbitrary appeal to raison d’état and the refusal to relinquish power. To which we can add xenophobia,
racism, lack of concern for the natural environment, the plundering of natural resources for the sake of quick
profit and contempt for those forced into exile.
5. Good politics promotes the participation of the young and trust in others
When the exercise of political power aims only at protecting the interests of a few privileged individuals, the
future is compromised and young people can be tempted to lose confidence, since they are relegated to the
margins of society without the possibility of helping to build the future. But when politics concretely fosters
the talents of young people and their aspirations, peace grows in their outlook and on their faces. It becomes
a confident assurance that says, “I trust you and with you I believe” that we can all work together for the
common good. Politics is at the service of peace if it finds expression in the recognition of the gifts and
abilities of each individual. “What could be more beautiful than an outstretched hand? It was meant by God
to offer and to receive. God did not want it to kill (cf. Gen 4:1ff) or to inflict suffering, but to offer care and
help in life. Together with our heart and our intelligence, our hands too can become a means of dialogue”.
Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home. Authentic political life, grounded
in law and in frank and fair relations between individuals, experiences renewal whenever we are convinced
that every woman, man and generation brings the promise of new relational, intellectual, cultural and
spiritual energies. That kind of trust is never easy to achieve, because human relations are complex,
especially in our own times, marked by a climate of mistrust rooted in the fear of others or of strangers, or
anxiety about one’s personal security. Sadly, it is also seen at the political level, in attitudes of rejection or
forms of nationalism that call into question the fraternity of which our globalized world has such great need.
Today more than ever, our societies need “artisans of peace” who can be messengers and authentic witnesses
of God the Father, who wills the good and the happiness of the human family.
6. No to war and to the strategy of fear
A hundred years after the end of the First World War, as we remember the young people killed in those
battles and the civilian populations torn apart, we are more conscious than ever of the terrible lesson taught
by fratricidal wars: peace can never be reduced solely to a balance between power and fear. To threaten
others is to lower them to the status of objects and to deny their dignity. This is why we state once more that
an escalation of intimidation, and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms, is contrary to morality and the
search for true peace. Terror exerted over those who are most vulnerable contributes to the exile of entire
populations who seek a place of peace. Political addresses that tend to blame every evil on migrants and to
deprive the poor of hope are unacceptable. Rather, there is a need to reaffirm that peace is based on respect
for each person, whatever his or her background, on respect for the law and the common good, on respect for
the environment entrusted to our care and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past
Our thoughts turn in a particular way to all those children currently living in areas of conflict, and to all those
who work to protect their lives and defend their rights. One out of every six children in our world is affected
by the violence of war or its effects, even when they are not enrolled as child soldiers or held hostage by
armed groups. The witness given by those who work to defend them and their dignity is most precious for
the future of humanity.
7. A great project of peace
In these days, we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
adopted in the wake of the Second World War. In this context, let us also remember the observation of Pope
John XXIII: “Man’s awareness of his rights must inevitably lead him to the recognition of his duties. he
possession of rights involves the duty of implementing those rights, for they are the expression of a man’s
personal dignity. And the possession of rights also involves their recognition and respect by others”.
Peace, in effect, is the fruit of a great political project grounded in the mutual responsibility and
interdependence of human beings. But it is also a challenge that demands to be taken up ever anew. It entails
a conversion of heart and soul; it is both interior and communal; and it has three inseparable aspects:
– peace with oneself, rejecting inflexibility, anger and impatience; in the words of Saint Francis de Sales,
showing “a bit of sweetness towards oneself” in order to offer “a bit of sweetness to others”;
– peace with others: family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the suffering, being unafraid to
encounter them and listen to what they have to say;
– peace with all creation, rediscovering the grandeur of God’s gift and our individual and shared
responsibility as inhabitants of this world, citizens and builders of the future.
The politics of peace, conscious of and deeply concerned for every situation of human vulnerability, can
always draw inspiration from the Magnificat, the hymn that Mary, the Mother of Christ the Saviour and
Queen of Peace, sang in the name of all mankind: “He has mercy on those who fear him in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm; he has scattered the proud in their conceit. He has cast down the
mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly; …for he has remembered his promise of mercy, the
promise he made to our fathers, to Abraham and his children forever” (Lk 1:50-55).
From the Vatican, 8 December 2018