Pope Benedict: Educate Young People in Justice and Peace
by Christopher Dodson
Executive Director, North Dakota Catholic Conference
Every year the Pope issues a World Day of Peace message on January 1. For this year’s celebration, Pope Benedict XVI wrote on “Educating Young People in Justice and Peace.” Contrary to the title, the message is not just about educating young people. The address is really a call for everyone to educate themselves and act on issues of justice and peace. “Peace for all is the fruit of justice for all, and no one can shirk this essential task of promoting justice,” writes the Pope.
How, then, can we commit ourselves justice and peace in this new year?
For starters, we can read and reflect on the Pope’s World Day of Peace message. It is only about six pages - short for a papal message - but manages to summarize and express essential truths about man’s true nature and place in the world.
Make God first in all things. Peace and justice are not political movements. They flow from our acceptance of God’s love. As the Pope states in his World Day of Peace message: “‘It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true ... an unconditional return to God who is the measure of what is right and who at the same time is everlasting love. And what could ever save us apart from love?’ Love takes delight in truth, it is the force that enables us to make a commitment to truth, to justice, to peace, because it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things (cf. 1 Cor 13:1-13).”
Get a copy of the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church. If you cannot purchase a hard copy, it is available from the Vatican’s website. The hard copy, however, comes with a very useful index.
If you are a parish leader, consider using the 11-week reflection series Faithful Citizenship: An Exploration of Sacred Scripture and Tradition from USCCB or the National Catholic Rural Life Conference’s Faith-Based Study Guide on Poverty and Hunger. Both would be great for Lenten studies.
Protect religious liberty. Justice and peace are not served if a person cannot act according to his or her religious beliefs. We cannot educate our youth in justice and peace without religious freedom. Most importantly, religious liberty is needed if we are to act for justice in peace in the public square. Become involved in the campaign to protect religious liberty in North Dakota.
Join the North Dakota Catholic Conference mailing list and subscribe to the news feeds for both the conference and the National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors.
Catechists and parents can make sure that justice and peace are included in religious formation courses for all ages. The USCCB has materials for all ages.
Support marriage and families. “The family is the first school in which we are trained in justice and peace,” says Pope Benedict. It is not enough, however, to merely give lip-service and “moral support” to marriage and families. In his address the Pope warns not just about “fragmented” families, by which he presumably means families impacted by divorce, single-parenting, and out-of-wedlock childbearing, but also “working conditions which are often incompatible with family responsibilities, worries about the future, the frenetic pace of life, the need to move frequently to ensure an adequate livelihood . . .” All of these take away from children the “most precious of treasures: the presence of their parents.”
For that reason, political leaders, the Pope notes, have a responsibility to foster economic and social conditions that give concrete support to family life. When the family, the domestic church, becomes the center of our policies, justice and peace can flourish.
Pope’s World Day of Peace message "Educating Young Persons in Justice and Peace"
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church (online)
Faithful Citizenship: An Exploration of Sacred Scripture and Tradition
Faith-Based Study Guide on Poverty and Hunger
North Dakota Catholic Conference mailing list
North Dakota Catholic Conference news feed
National Association of State Catholic Conference Directors news feed
Faithful Citizenship Catechetical Resources