We are all brothers and sisters

Pope Francis begins his message for the World Day of Peace this January with some words from Pope Benedict. “Globalisation makes us neighbours, but does not make us brothers and sisters.”

The speed of travel and the reach of the internet enable us to know what is happening in China or Syria but it does not immediately make us real brothers and sisters to those who live there. Francis calls us to live “fraternity” and discover what it really means to be brothers and sisters of one loving Father.

He gives the story of Cain and Abel as the first rejection of fraternity. Why did Cain kill his brother? Why do we kill each other today? Cain’s disdainful response to God – “Am I my brother’s keeper?” – is echoed across the world today where the powerful do not care for the weak but regard them as objects to be exploited.

Francis reminds us, “you are all brothers and sisters” (Matt 23:8-9), children of one loving Father. We are reconciled to one another and to God through the self-giving of Jesus, the Son of God. Realising this opens the way to peace. Why should people in one family quarrel and repeat Cain’s outrage? The pope calls “everyone” to struggle against this evil we find in ourselves and in the world.

Francis calls for an attitude of “detachment” so that people can rise above possessiveness and share what they have with those who have nothing. This applies to individuals and to states. He encourages the traditional virtues we were taught and which we never understood: “prudence, temperance, justice and strength (fortitude).”

They amount to a sense of uniting myself with the “big picture”, recognising the harmony in creation and using all my powers – “all your mind, all your heart and all your strength” – to reach out to others.

Such a thrust, the pope tells us, will “extinguish war.” War, he told President Putin of Russia, is “a concrete refusal to pursue the great economic and social goals that the international community has set itself.” While commending the agreements and treaties nations achieve, what is always needed is a conversion of heart if we are to make lasting progress.

A key expression of this is where “citizens feel themselves represented by public authorities”, that is, where governments serve the common good. Otherwise “partisan interests” disfigure relationships and the pope goes on to list the crimes that destroy fraternity. Selfishness, he says, shows itself in corruption and organised crime.

And he mentions drug abuse, devastating natural resources, exploiting labour, speculating in money, forcing young people into prostitution, trafficking in human beings especially migrants, abuses against minors, slavery and inhumane conditions in prisons. All these things cry out to heaven as they impede movement towards that fraternity which brings peace.

Francis reminds us that the earth produces enough to feed everyone, yet millions suffer and die of starvation.

Post published in: Faith

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