Pope Francis delivered his first official messages of 2015 to tens of thousands in St. Peter’s Square on New Year’s Day. His wish? For world peace in the New Year…
The pontiff made his New Year’s wishes clear when he made his first window appearance of the year at noon on New Year’s Day. He said he hoped that “there will never be more wars.”
So his wish was for peace. “Peace is always possible,” he said. “We must search for it.” The Pope also took this message to Twitter Thursday, asking God to grant serenity to the world at large.
“How many innocent people and children suffer in the world!” he wrote. “Lord, grant us your peace!”
During his first Mass of 2015, Pope Francis urged people of all cultures to come together to fight modern-day slavery and human trafficking. January 1 marks the Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, which focuses on this issue, with the pontiff calling for all men and women to be free. “All of us are called to be free, all are called to be sons and daughters, and each, according to his or her own responsibilities, is called to combat modern forms of enslavement,” Pope Francis said. “From every people, culture and religion, let us join our forces.”
The previous evening, Pope Francis closed the year 2014 by reflecting on time.
The end of one calendar year and the beginning of another is the perfect occasion to reflect on how well people have used the time and gifts God has given them — especially how well people have helped the poor, Pope Francis said.
While God is eternal, time is important even to him, Pope Francis said during a prayer service New Year’s Eve in St. Peter’s Basilica. “He wanted to reveal himself and save us in history,” becoming human to demonstrate “his concrete love.”
As a strong winter wind blew outside, Pope Francis ended 2014 celebrating evening prayer with Eucharistic adoration and Benediction, and the solemn singing of the Te Deum, a hymn of praise for God’s blessings.
At the end of a year, like at the end of life, he said, the Church teaches its members to make an examination of conscience, “remembering all that happened, thanking the Lord for all the good we received and were able to do and, at the same time, remembering where we were lacking and our sins. Give thanks and ask forgiveness.”
Speaking specifically as bishop of Rome to others who have the honor of living in the city and the responsibility of participating in its civic life, Pope Francis said Christians must have “the courage to proclaim in our city that the poor must be defended and that we do not need to defend ourselves from the poor, that the weak must be served and not used.”
Pope Francis made specific mention of the Rome corruption scandal that became public in early December; investigators claim millions of dollars’ worth of public contracts were awarded for waste management, housing immigrants and other programs, but the services were never provided or were not at the levels called for by the contracts. “The serious incidents of corruption that recently emerged require a serious and conscious conversion of hearts for a spiritual and moral renewal,” the Pope said, “as well as for a renewed commitment to building a city marked by justice and solidarity where the poor, the weak and the marginalized are at the center of our concern and our daily action.”
While God created humanity to be his children, he said, original sin and its remnants continue to distance people from God, often making them slaves who follow “the voice of the Evil One.”
God sent Jesus to ransom sinners from their slavery, the Pope said, which gives rise to an essential question in one’s examination of conscience: “Do we live as children (of God) or as slaves?”
“Do we live as people baptized in Christ, anointed by the Spirit, ransomed and free?” he asked. “Or do we live according to worldly logic: corrupt, doing what the devil wants us to believe is in our best interest?”
Pope Francis told those gathered in the basilica that all people, even Christians, have “a tendency to resist freedom; we fear freedom and, paradoxically, we prefer slavery” although often people are not aware that that is what they are doing.
The end of a year, he said, is a reminder that there will be a “final hour” and all people will be judged, particularly on how they used their freedom and how they cared for the poor.
“No Longer Slaves, But Brothers and Sisters” Excerpts from the Pope’s Message for the World Day of Peace Thursday, January 1, 2014
By Pope Francis
At the beginning of this New Year, which we welcome as God’s gracious gift to all humanity, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to every man and woman, to all the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious leaders. In doing so, I pray for an end to wars…
From time immemorial, different societies have known the phenomenon of man’s subjugation by man. There have been periods of human history in which the institution of slavery was generally accepted and regulated by law. This legislation dictated who was born free and who was born into slavery, as well as the conditions whereby a freeborn person could lose his or her freedom or regain it. In other words, the law itself admitted that some people were able or required to be considered the property of other people, at their free disposition. A slave could be bought and sold, given away or acquired, as if he or she were a commercial product.
Today, as the result of a growth in our awareness, slavery, seen as a crime against humanity, has been formally abolished throughout the world. The right of each person not to be kept in a state of slavery or servitude has been recognized in international law as inviolable. Yet, even though the international community has adopted numerous agreements aimed at ending slavery in all its forms, and has launched various strategies to combat this phenomenon, millions of people today – children, women and men of all ages – are deprived of freedom and are forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.
I think of the many men and women laborers, including minors, subjugated in different sectors, whether formally or informally, in domestic or agricultural workplaces, or in the manufacturing or mining industry; whether in countries where labor regulations fail to comply with international norms and minimum standards, or, equally illegally, in countries which lack legal protection for workers’ rights.
I think also of the living conditions of many migrants who, in their dramatic odyssey, experience hunger, are deprived of freedom, robbed of their possessions, or undergo physical and sexual abuse. In a particular way, I think of those among them who, upon arriving at their destination after a gruelling journey marked by fear and insecurity, are detained in at times inhumane conditions. I think of those among them, who for different social, political and economic reasons, are forced to live clandestinely. My thoughts also turn to those who, in order to remain within the law, agree to disgraceful living and working conditions, especially in those cases where the laws of a nation create or permit a structural dependency of migrant workers on their employers, as, for example, when the legality of their residency is made dependent on their labor contract. Yes, I am thinking of “slave labor.”
I think also of persons forced into prostitution, many of whom are minors, as well as male and female sex slaves. I think of women forced into marriage, those sold for arranged marriages and those bequeathed to relatives of their deceased husbands, without any right to give or withhold their consent.
Nor can I fail to think of all those persons, minors and adults alike, who are made objects of trafficking for the sale of organs, for recruitment as soldiers, for begging, for illegal activities such as the production and sale of narcotics, or for disguised forms of cross-border adoption.
Finally, I think of all those kidnapped and held captive by terrorist groups, subjected to their purposes as combatants, or, above all in the case of young girls and women, to be used as sex slaves. Many of these disappear, while others are sold several times over, tortured, mutilated or killed…
Often, when considering the reality of human trafficking, illegal trafficking of migrants and other acknowledged or unacknowledged forms of slavery, one has the impression that they occur within a context of general indifference.
Sadly, this is largely true. Yet I would like to mention the enormous and often silent efforts which have been made for many years by religious congregations, especially women’s congregations, to provide support to victims. These institutes work in very difficult situations, dominated at times by violence, as they work to break the invisible chains binding victims to traffickers and exploiters…
We ought to recognize that we are facing a global phenomenon which exceeds the competence of any one community or country. In order to eliminate it, we need a mobilization comparable in size to that of the phenomenon itself.
For this reason I urgently appeal to all men and women of good will, and all those near or far, including the highest levels of civil institutions, who witness the scourge of contemporary slavery, not to become accomplices to this evil, not to turn away from the sufferings of our brothers and sisters…
We know that God will ask each of us: What did you do for your brother? (cf. Gen 4:9-10). The globalization of indifference, which today burdens the lives of so many of our brothers and sisters, requires all of us to forge a new worldwide solidarity and fraternity capable of giving them new hope and helping them to advance with courage amid the problems of our time and the new horizons which they disclose and which God places in our hands.