“The diakonia of the Church’s origins, enlivened over the centuries by the active charity of many luminous witnesses to the faith, became the beating heart of the Church’s social doctrine.”
From Vatican News:
In his message for the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, Pope Francis appeals to the international community and every individual to foster a “culture of care” by advancing on the “path of fraternity, justice and peace between individuals, communities, peoples and nations.”
“There can be no peace without a culture of care,” the Pope stresses in his message for the 54th World Day of Peace, held on 1 January 2021, which was released by the Vatican on Thursday.
The Holy Father calls for “a common, supportive and inclusive commitment to protecting and promoting the dignity and good of all, a willingness to show care and compassion, to work for reconciliation and healing, and to advance mutual respect and acceptance.” In this task, Pope Francis offers the principles of the Church’s social doctrine as a compass on the path to peace.
Established by Pope St. Paul VI in 1967, the first World Day of Peace was observed on 1 January 1968. On New Year’s Day, the Church also celebrates the solemn feast of Mary, Mother of God.
“A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace” is the theme of the Pope’s message, addressed to heads of state and government, leaders of international organizations, spiritual leaders and followers of the different religions, and to men and women of good will.
Pope Francis begins his message noting how the “massive Covid-19 health crisis” has aggravated deeply interrelated crises such as those of the climate, food, the economy and migration, causing great sorrow and suffering to many. He makes it an occasion to appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick, the poor and those who are most vulnerable.
Alongside the pandemic, the Pope also notes a surge in various forms of nationalism, racism and xenophobia, and wars and conflicts that bring only death and destruction in their wake. These and other events of 2020, he says, have underscored the importance of caring for one another and for creation in our efforts to build a more fraternal society. Hence, “A Culture of Care as a Path to Peace” is a “way to combat the culture of indifference, waste and confrontation so prevalent in our time,” he says.
Interestingly, the Holy Father notes “the diakonia of the Church’s origins”:
The spiritual and corporal works of mercy were at the heart of charity as practiced by the early Church. The first generation of Christians shared what they had, so that no one among them would be in need (cf. Acts 4:34-35). They strove to make their community a welcoming home, concerned for every human need and ready to care for those most in need. It became customary to make voluntary offerings in order to feed the poor, bury the dead and care for orphans, the elderly and victims of disasters like shipwrecks. In later times, when the generosity of Christians had lost its initial fervor, some Fathers of the Church insisted that property was meant by God for the common good. For Saint Ambrose, “nature poured out all things for the common use of all… and thus produced a common right for all, but greed has made it a right for only a few”. After the persecutions of the first centuries, the Church used her newfound freedom to inspire society and its culture. “The needs of the times called forth new efforts in the service of Christian charity. History records innumerable examples of practical works of mercy… The Church’s work among the poor was to a great extent highly organized. There arose many institutions for the relief of every human need: hospitals, poor houses, orphanages, foundling homes, shelters for travelers …”
The diakonia of the Church’s origins, enriched by the reflection of the Fathers and enlivened over the centuries by the active charity of many luminous witnesses to the faith, became the beating heart of the Church’s social doctrine. This doctrine is offered to all people of good will as a precious patrimony of principles, criteria and proposals that can serve as a “grammar” of care: commitment to promoting the dignity of each human person, solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, the pursuit of the common good and concern for protection of creation.