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Pope Francis: Good Politics Serve Peace

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The World Day for Peace was founded and inaugurated by St. Paul VI. In the first message (Jan 1, 1968) entitled “The Observance of a Day of Peace,” Pope Montini writes: We address Ourselves to all men of good will to exhort them to celebrate ‘The Day of Peace’, throughout the world, on the first day of the year…We think that this proposal interprets the aspirations of peoples, of their governments, of international organisms which strive to preserve Peace in the world, of those religious institutions so interested in the promotion of Peace, of cultural, political and social movements which  make Peace their ideal; of youth, whose perspicacity regarding the new paths of civilization, dutifully oriented toward its peaceful developments is more lively; of wise men who see how much, today, Peace is both necessary and threatened. 

The title of the Message for the 52ndWorld Day of Peace is Good Politics Is at the Service of Peace(January 1, 2019). Pope Francis opens his 2019 Peace Message by greeting all: Peace be to this house - to all individuals, peoples and the whole of humanity (cf. Lk10:5-6). The five-page message is subdivided into the following sub-titles: the challenge of good politics; charity and human virtues as the basis of a politics of service; political vices; good politics promotes the participation of the young; no to war and the strategy of fear, and a great project of peace. 

After the Sacred Scriptures and tradition, the sources of the 2019 Peace Message are the usual ones: the principles and practice (orthodoxy and orthopraxis) from the social doctrine of the Church. Pope Francis quotes three seminal thoughts from three basic magisterial documents: St. John XXIII Pacem in Terris; St. Paul VI Octogesima Adveniens, and Benedict XVICaritas in Veritate. 


Politics generally refers to activities connected with the governance of a country, and with regional and international political relations between and among nations. Pope Francis says that politics isan essential means to build up communities and countries.In his 2019 Peace Message, the Pope points out the presence of good and bad politics in our world, and reflects on the virtues and vices of politics, and calls all - citizens of a country and of the world - to action: to build together a just, peaceful and fraternal world with the invaluable aid of good politics that serve peace.

LIGHTS AND SHADOWS OF POLITICS - There is “a climate of mistrust” in human relations, a mistrust grounded on fear of others, of strangers, and anxiety over personal security. 

In our world, there is the practice of good politics, or politics of service to peace, by leaders who defend and promote the equal human dignity and fundamental rights of all, including in particular children, migrants, refugees, and the poor. Good politics, moreover, fosters the talents of all, in particular, the talents and aspirations of the young.

Besides good politics, there is also the practice of bad politics that lead to injustice, oppression, marginalization and even destruction. Bad politics may often be a means of corruption, xenophobia, racism, contempt for the exiled, insensibility and exploitation of all creation. Moreover, there are today certain forms of nationalism that obstruct fraternity towards a global world. The Argentine Pope mentions the immoral proliferation of arms (no. 3) and highlights the terrible influence of wars on children: One out of every six children over the world is affected by the violence of war or its effects. 

REFLECTION -While good, virtuous use of power is good politics, sinful abuse of power and authority is bad, corrupted politics. While good politics serves all – the common good -, bad politics excludes the different, migrants, and the poor, and it may lead to “fratricidal wars.” 

According to basic philosophical and theological ethics, good politics underlines not only human rights but equally corresponding duties: rights and duties are co-relative- to one’s rights corresponds the duty of all others to respect them and defend them (St. John XXIII). 

Virtues, or good operative habits, incline us to do good in different specific fields of action. The social doctrine of the Church speaks of four columns or values which build its social teaching, namely, freedom, truth, justice, and love. A fifth column ought to be added: life.

In his 2019 Peace Message, Pope Francis highly recommends the acquisition and practice of the virtues of justice, equality, mutual respect, sincerity, honesty, and fidelity. Among all the virtues stands out love or charity, which strengthens all virtues and disposes of best to the practice of a politics of service to peace, which includes justice and solidarity. One remembers the words of St. John Paul II: “When good overcomes evil, love prevails, and where love prevails, their peace prevails.” Authentic love – shown in a particular and perfect way in the Beatitudes of the Politician- includes necessarily and goes beyond justice. One remembers the words of St. Thomas Aquinas: Justice without love is cruelty, and love without justice is stupidity. Pope Francis stresses that fraternity is the virtue the world needs most and that it nurtures unity among peoples and nations, and feeds the universal human longing for global peace. (Commenting Jesus’ “new commandment,” Love one another as I have loved you(Jn 13:34), Fray Luis de Granada writes: “If this commandment would be carried out in the world, men would live in paradise.”) 

Politics is at the service of peace, which St. Augustine defines as the tranquility of order. Peace – Pope Francis states - can never be reduced to a balance between power and fear.In this context, the escalation of intimidation and the uncontrolled proliferation of arms is contrary to true peace – and morality. Peace is grounded upon respect of all, and respect for the law and for the common good. It is, moreover based on respect for the environment– our common home –, and for the richness of the moral tradition inherited from past generations.

RESPONSE - All human beings are called to water and nurture hopeful peace: tomorrow will be better for all if we start today working as peacemakers, artisans of peace, and its servants(cf. Mk 9:35). Thus, led by responsible leaders and politicians, we all may contribute significantly to building up a worthy and just futurefor all. 

We all are citizens of a country and of the worldEthical politics obliges each individual to work, at one and the same time, for the good of the city, the nation and all the whole humankind (St. Paul VI). The goal of history and the human family is building the universal city of God.  Working for the common good together and inspired and sustained by fraternal love, citizens contribute their share to building up the expected global city of God (Benedict XVI). 

To become authentic artisans of peace, citizens and builders of the future and messengers and witnesses of harmonious personal and social life, we need conversion of heart and soul, interior and communal conversionIntegral conversion for peace comprises – Pope Francis says - three inseparable aspects. First, to be at peace with oneself– a peace that rejects inflexibility, anger, and impatience and is accompanied by a bit sweetness toward oneself and others (St. Francis de Sales). Second, to be at peace with others– with family members, friends, strangers, the poor and the sufferings, and be able to encounter them and listen to them. And third,to be at peace with all creation and thus rediscover the grandeur of God’s gift. In this context, one recalls the words of the Venerable Fulton Sheen: “Moral garbage is the cause of ecological garbage.”

Social ethics underlines that the most essential aspect of integral peace is interior peace– peace with oneself. One remembers the words of St. Seraphim: “Acquire inner peace and thousands around you will find liberation,” that is, personal and social peace. 


Peace today is reality and hope. On January 1, the Pope said that “we are all responsible for the life of the city, of the common good” (Address, January 1, 2019). He underlines in his 2019 Peace Message that peace is like hope (the surprising hope of Charles Peguy), like a delicate flower struggling to bloom on the stony ground of violence. Pope Francis invites us: “Everyone can contribute his or her stone to help build the common home.” Am I, are you doing that? For peace! (Fausto Gómez Berlana OP)