NEW YEAR MESSAGE 2017
Bishop Leo O’Reilly
New Year’s Day is the day that the Church celebrates the annual World Day of Peace. This year marks the fiftieth World Day of Peace. It was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI and, since then, there has been a message each year from the Holy Father to mark this day.
This year Pope Francis takes a very relevant theme for his message: “Non-violence: A Style of Politics for Peace”. He recalls that Jesus lived in violent times. Yet he taught that the source of violence and evil is the human heart: for “it is from within, from the human heart that evils intentions come”(Mk 7:21). Jesus tells us to counteract violence with love, to love even our enemies, to turn the other cheek.
Pope Francis points out that if the heart is the source of violence, “then it is fundamental that nonviolence be practised before all else in families”. He goes on to explain why, namely that human hearts are shaped by families, by the attitudes and interactions of the family members:
“The family is the indispensible crucible in which spouses, parents and children, brothers and sisters, learn to communicate and to show generous concern for one another, and in which frictions, and even conflicts, have to be resolved not by force but by dialogue, respect, concern for the good of the other, mercy and forgiveness. From within families, the joy of love spills out into the world and radiates to the whole of society.”
In this context, the celebration of the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) in Dublin in 2018 takes on a new importance. The family is the fundamental cell of society and of the Church. If our families are healthy and strong , our society will too. If our families are strong in faith, the life of our Church will reflect that. We have already begun our programme of preparation for WMOF in our parishes at Christmas with the distribution of the Prayer to the Holy Family of Pope Francis. I invite families throughout the diocese to use this prayer and to make it part of daily family prayers over the next two years.
Towards the end of his Message, Pope Francis speaks of the importance of the family in promoting a culture of nonviolence and peacemaking:
“The politics of nonviolence have to begin in the home and then spread to the entire human family. St Therese of Lisieux invites us to practise the little way of love, not to miss out on a kind word, a smile or any small gesture which shows peace and friendship. An integral ecology is .. made up of simple daily gestures that break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.”
As we are about leave 2016 behind and embark on another year my prayer is that violence, especially violence against women and children, will cease and that all our families will grow strong in faith and love, and that love will spread out from them to bring peace in our world.
I wish all the people of our diocese a very happy and peaceful New Year and every blessing in 2017.
[For the full text of Pope Francis’ Message for the Celebration of the Fiftieth World Day of Peace please follow the link: ]