Reflections on Pope Francis’ 2023 World Day of Peace message
What is the greatest lesson you learned from Covid-19? For Pope Francis it is that “we all need one another.” So true, and yet, so often ignored. With this essential, foundational life lesson, the Holy Father builds a New Year’s invitation for global peace.
In his Jan. 1, 2023, World Day of Peace message entitled “No one can be saved alone. Combatting Covid-19 together, embarking together on paths of peace,” Pope Francis challenges us to travel on new paths that allow us to cast off the chains of our old habits, and to be better prepared to dare new things (see: https://bit.ly/3CaocZu).
“Certainly, after experiencing the fragility of our own lives and the world around us,” Francis emphasizes that indeed, “we all need one another. That our greatest and yet most fragile treasure is our shared humanity as brothers and sisters, children of God. And that none of us can be saved alone.”
The inspiring, and even heroic efforts of many during the pandemic, gives cause to hope for a better way going forward. But yet, at the same time, the old deadly habits persist.
Pope Francis reminds us that, “At the very moment when we dared to hope that the darkest hours of the Covid-19 pandemic were over, a terrible new disaster befell humanity.” He lamented the tragic war in Ukraine, and the tragedy of the dozens of armed conflicts around the world. “While a vaccine has been found for Covid-19, suitable solutions have not yet been found for war. Certainly, the virus of war is more difficult to overcome than the viruses that compromise our bodies, because it comes, not from outside of us, but from within the human heart corrupted by sin” (see: Mark 7:17-23).
In order to successfully pursue the good of all, Francis underscores an essential fact that the many moral, social, political and economic crises we are faced with are all interconnected. “And what we see as isolated problems are actually causes and effects of one another.”
The Holy Father thus urges us to meet these crises head on with responsibility and compassion. He asks us to pray to Mary Immaculate, Mother of Jesus and Queen of Peace for her intercession, and to commit ourselves to work for peace, universal public health care, the environment, the reversal of climate change, dignified work for all, an end to the scandal of starvation, and for humane policies that welcome and integrate migrants and all other human beings who find themselves discarded by societies.
Pope Francis puts to us this key question: “What then is being asked of us?” He reflects, “First of all, to let our hearts be changed.” He challenges us to let God transform the usual way we view the world; to no longer think in exclusively personal and nationalistic terms. Instead, Francis points us toward the way of God; toward thinking in terms of the common good, a global community, and to “opening our minds and hearts to universal human fraternity.”
Francis adds that we cannot continue to focus simply on preserving ourselves; rather, the time has come for all of us to endeavor to heal our society and our planet, to lay the foundations for a more just and peaceful world, and to commit ourselves seriously to pursuing a good that is truly common.”
In inspiringly poetic and wise prophetic agreement with Pope Francis, the late French paleontologist, and fellow Jesuit Father Teilhard de Chardin wrote, “The age of nations is past. The task before us now, if we would not perish, is to build the earth.”
Tony Magliano is an internationally syndicated Catholic social justice and peace columnist. He is available to speak at diocesan or parish gatherings. Tony can be reached at email@example.com.