In Peace Day message, pope addresses death penalty, debt, migrants

IMAGE: CNS photo/Arshad Arbab, EPA

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis called for abolishing
the death penalty worldwide, lifting the burden of debt on poor nations, global
aid policies that respect life and revamped laws that welcome and integrate

He urged individuals, communities and nations to not let indifference,
information overload or pessimism discourage them from concrete efforts
“to improve the world around us, beginning with our families, neighbors
and places of employment.”

Building peace, he said, is not accomplished by words
alone, but through the grace of God, a conversion of heart, an attitude of
compassion and the courage to act against despair.

The pope’s multifaceted plea came in his message for
World Peace Day, Jan. 1. The message, which was delivered to world
leaders by Vatican ambassadors, was released at the Vatican Dec. 15.

The message, titled “Overcome Indifference and Win
Peace,” contained a three-fold appeal to the world’s leaders.

He asked that countries: “refrain from drawing other
peoples into conflicts of wars,” which not only destroy a nation’s infrastructure
and cultural heritage, but also their “moral and spiritual integrity”;
forgive or make less burdensome international debt of poorer nations; and
“adopt policies of cooperation which, instead of bowing before the
dictatorship of certain ideologies, will respect the values of the local
populations” and not harm the “fundamental and inalienable right to
life of the unborn.”

Also part of building peace in the world, he said, is addressing
the urgent problem of improving the living conditions of prisoners, especially
those still awaiting trial. Since rehabilitation should be the aim of penal sanctions,
effective alternatives to incarceration should be considered as well as the abolition
of the death penalty. The pope asked government authorities to consider “the possibility of an amnesty” or pardon.

The pope called on national governments to review their
current laws on immigration and find ways they could “reflect a readiness
to welcome migrants and to facilitate their integration” as well as
respect the rights and responsibilities of all parties concerned.

All nations’ leaders should also take concrete measures in
alleviating the problem of a lack of housing, land and employment, the pope
wrote, as well as stop discrimination against women in the workplace, which
included unfair wages and precarious or dangerous working conditions. He said
he hoped those who are ill could be guaranteed access to medical treatment, necessary
medications and home care.

The pope’s message focused on the dangers of cynicism and
indifference against God, neighbor and creation.

“Disregard and the denial of God,” he said,
“have produced untold cruelty and violence.” And the exploitation of
natural resources and mistreatment of animals have an effect “on the way we
treat other people.”

“With the present Jubilee of Mercy, I want to invite
the church to pray and work so that every Christian will have a humble and
compassionate heart” and that all people will learn “to forgive and
to give,” he said in his message.

God is never indifferent to the world, he said. He not
only sees, hears and knows, he “comes down and delivers” real healing
and eternal teachings.

The credibility of the church and its members rests on
their willingness to live and act with the same tireless mercy God has for the
world, the pope said.

“We, too, then are called to make compassion, love,
mercy and solidarity a true way of life, a rule of conduct in our relationships
with one another,” he said.

Since these attitudes of compassion and solidarity are
often handed down from person to person, the pope emphasized the importance of families
and teachers in showing what love, respect, dialogue, generosity, charity and faith

He also reminded the media and communicators of their responsibility
to “serve the truth and not particular interests.” They don’t just
inform people, he said, but also form and influence their audience.

“Communicators should also be mindful that the way
in which information is obtained and made public should always be legally and
morally admissible,” he said.

In his message, the pope praised those journalists and
religious who raise awareness about troubling and “difficult situations,”
and defend the human rights of minorities, indigenous peoples, women, children
and the most vulnerable people in society.

– – –

Editor’s Note: The text of the pope’s World Peace Day
message in English will be posted online at:

The text of the pope’s message in Spanish will be posted
online at:

– – –

Copyright © 2015 Catholic News Service/U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved. Republishing or redistributing of CNS content, including by framing or similar means without prior permission, is prohibited. You may link to stories on our public site. This copy is for your personal, non-commercial use only. To request permission for republishing or redistributing of CNS content, please contact permissions at

Original Article