Papal message for World Peace Day to focus on overcoming indifference

A young girl touches Pope Francis' face during his general audience in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Feb. 11. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

A young girl touches Pope Francis’ face during his general audience earlier this year. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

By Cindy Wooden Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Selfishness and fear keep too many people ignorant of the suffering of others and prevent them from finding creative ways to express solidarity and to promote peace, said a statement from the Vatican’s justice and peace office.

To promote a reflection on the need for a “conversion of mind and heart” open to the needs of others, Pope Francis has chosen “Overcome indifference and win peace” as the theme for the church’s celebration of the World Day of Peace 2016.

Announcing the theme for the Jan. 1 celebration, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace said that peace is difficult to achieve when people are indifferent “to the scourges of our time.”

The problems everyone must be aware of, the council said in an Aug. 11 statement, include “fundamentalism, intolerance and massacres, persecutions on account of faith and ethnicity,” disregard for human rights, human trafficking and forced labor, corruption, organized crime and forced migration.

Simply increasing the amount of information about the problems is not enough, the council said: People must open their hearts and minds to the suffering of others.

“Today, indifference is often linked to various forms of individualism which cause isolation, ignorance, selfishness and, therefore, lack of interest and commitment,” the statement said.

World Peace Day 2016 will be celebrated within the Year of Mercy, which Pope Francis will open formally Dec. 8.

The peace day theme and a papal message about it — expected to be released in mid-December — aim to help people reflect on how they can “build together a more conscious and merciful and, therefore, more free and fair world,” the council said.

“The creation of a culture of law, education in dialogue and cooperation are, in this context, the fundamental forms of a constructive response,” the statement said.

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