Every year, January 1 is designated as the World Day of Peace, and the Pope issues a special statement. The title of Pope Benedict’s message for January 1, 2009 is Fighting Povery to Build Peace.
Pope Benedict begins his message by referring to Pope John Paul II’s similar message on poverty in 1993. Pope Benedict makes the case that poverty is a complex phenomenon which requires the attention of the entire planet.
The Pope includes not only material poverty but also non-material forms of poverty. “For example, in advanced wealthy societies, there is evidence of marginalization, as well as affective, moral and spiritual poverty, seen in people whose interior lives are disoriented and who experience various forms of malaise despite their economic prosperity.”
The Pope identifies five areas of concern: 1) The belief that poverty is often considered a consequence of demographic changes, 2) Pandemic diseases, 3) Child poverty, 4) Relationship between disarmament and development, and 5) The current food crisis.
To address global poverty, the Pope recommends global solidarity. Countries need to work together to eliminate injustices. He highlights areas where marginalization of poorer countries occurs, including international commerce and trade, and argues that every country should be given ”equal opportunities of access to the world market, without exclusion or marginalization.”
The Pope also highlights the current economic crisis by explaining how focusing on short-term financial gain is the wrong approach.
According to Pope Benedict, “All of this would indicate that the fight against poverty requires cooperation both on the economic level and on the legal level, so as to allow the international community, and especially poorer countries, to identify and implement coordinated strategies to deal with [these] problems, thereby providing an effective legal framework for the economy.”
The Pope recommends an “ethical approach to economics on the part of those active in the international market, an ethical approach to politics on the part of those in public office, and an ethical approach to participation capable of harnessing the contributions of civil society at local and international levels.”
As we finish a year filled with economic turmoil that has affected people in our neighborhood and around the world, adopting an ethical approach sounds like a very good New Year’s resolution. And may peace follow, both in our hearts and in the world.