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Statement of Bishop Daniel E. Thomas, for the Celebration of the Fiftieth World Day of Peace

On January 1, 2017, as the Universal Church celebrates the Fiftieth World Day of Peace, I extend to every man, woman and child the “peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phil 4:7). This peace, which every person longs for, is meant for every family and every nation.

In fact, in the First World Day of Peace message, Blessed Pope Paul VI addressed the world by stating, “Peace is the only true direction of human progress” (Paul VI, Message for the First World Day of Peace, 1 January 1968). Thus, as we pause to pray today for peace in our world, let us reflect on how we ourselves build a culture of peace: in our own hearts, in our families, in our communities and in our world.

Have we in our own hearts and homes, ‘put away our sword’ (Mt 26:52) so as not to contribute to the degradation of the human person? Since violence has its source in the human heart (Mt 15:18), and is experienced first in our closest relationships, it is fundamental that peace and non-violence be practiced in our own families. As Pope Francis states in his message for this Fiftieth World Day of Peace:

The family is the indispensable crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions and even conflicts have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society. (Pope Francis, Message for the Fiftieth World Day of Peace, 1 January 2017)

Our prayer for peace and non-violence is ever so urgent because of the violence we see far too often in our world today: from terrorism and racism, to abuses suffered by migrants and immigrants, to the devastation of our environment, to the killing and throwing away of the most vulnerable in our society, in particular the unborn and elderly.

Pope Francis in his message on this World Day of Peace reminds us that nothing is impossible if we turn to God in prayer, asking ‘everyone to be an artisan of peace’ (Pope Francis, Appeal, Assisi, 20 September 2016). Therefore, I invite you actively to pray and work for an end to verbal violence, physical violence, sexual violence, racial violence, ethnic violence, domestic violence, familial violence, corporate violence, political violence, national and international violence.

When we pray for peace, act non-violently, and love our neighbor there will be peace on earth, a ‘peace which surpasses all understanding.’