that Is the Deepest Hope of Every Human Heart
Excerpts from John Paul II’s message for the World Day
January 1, 2004
We Christians see the commitment to educate ourselves and others to peace as
something at the very heart of our religion. For Christians, in fact, to proclaim
peace is to announce Christ who is “our peace” (Eph 2:14)....
It must be built on the four pillars indicated by Blessed John XXIII in his Encyclical
Pacem in Terris: truth, justice, love, and freedom. A duty is thus imposed upon
all those who love peace: that of educating new generations to these ideals,
in order to prepare a better future for all mankind....
The Second World War with the horrors and the appalling violations of human dignity
which it occasioned, led to a profound renewal of the international legal order.
The task of watching over global peace and security and with encouraging the
efforts of States to preserve and guarantee these fundamental goods of humanity
was entrusted by Governments to an organization established for this purpose–the
United Nations Organization–with a Security Council invested with broad
discretionary power. Pivotal to the system was the prohibition of the use of
force. This prohibition, according to the well-known Chapter VII of the United
Nations Charter, makes provision for only two exceptions. The first confirms
the natural right to legitimate defense, to be exercised in specific ways and
in the context of the United Nations.
The other exception is represented by the system of collective security, which
gives the Security Council competence and responsibility for the preservation
of peace, with power of decision and ample discretion....
In the decades which followed, however, the division of the international community
into opposing blocs, the Cold War in one part of the world, the outbreak of violent
conflicts in other areas, and the phenomenon of terrorism produced a growing
break with the ideas and expectations of the immediate post-war period.
It must be acknowledged, however, that the United Nations Organization, even
with limitations and delays due in great part to the failures of its members,
has made a notable contribution to the promotion of respect for human dignity,
the freedom of peoples, and the requirements of development, thus preparing the
cultural and institutional soil for the building of peace.
The activity of national Governments will be greatly encouraged by the realization
that the ideals of the United Nations have become widely diffused, particularly
through the practical gestures of solidarity and peace made by the many individuals
also involved in Non-Governmental Organizations and in Movements for human rights.
This represents a significant incentive for a reform which would enable the United
Nations Organization to function effectively for the pursuit of its own stated
ends, which remain valid.
Here I would repeat the words of encouragement which I spoke in 1995: “The
United Nations Organization needs to rise more and more above the cold status
of an administrative institution and to become a moral center where all the nations
of the world feel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were,
a family of nations....”
The scourge of terrorism has become more virulent in recent years and has produced
brutal massacres which have in turn put even greater obstacles in the way of
dialogue and negotiation, increasing tensions and aggravating problems, especially
in the Middle East.
Even so, if it is to be won, the fight against terrorism cannot be limited solely
to repressive and punitive operations.
The fight against terrorism must be conducted also on the political and educational
levels: on the one hand, by eliminating the underlying causes of situations of
injustice which frequently drive people to more desperate and violent acts; and
on the other hand, by insisting on an education inspired by respect for human
life in every situation: the unity of the human race is a more powerful reality
than any contingent divisions separating individuals and people....
In any event, democratic governments know well that the use of force against
terrorists cannot justify a renunciation of the principles of the rule of law.
Political decisions would be unacceptable were they to seek success without consideration
for fundamental human rights, since the end never justifies the means....
At the conclusion of these considerations, I feel it necessary to repeat that,
for the establishment of true peace in the world, justice must find its fulfillment
in charity. Certainly law is the first road leading to peace, and people need
to be taught to respect that law. Yet one does not arrive at the end of this
road unless justice is complemented by love.
For this reason I have often reminded Christians and all persons of good will
that forgiveness is needed for solving the problems of individuals and peoples.
There is no peace without forgiveness! I say it again here, as my thoughts turn
in particular to the continuing crisis in Palestine and the Middle East.
Christians know that love is the reason for God’s entering into relationship
with man. And it is love which he awaits as man’s response. Consequently,
love is also the loftiest and most noble form of relationship possible between
At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to repeat to women and men of every language,
religion, and culture the ancient maxim: “Omnia vincit amor” (Love
conquers all). Yes, dear Brothers and Sisters throughout the world, in the end
love will be victorious! Let everyone be committed to hastening this victory.
For it is the deepest hope of every human heart.