A Reflection

by Bishop Martin Hayes of Kilmore

on the Message of the Holy Father Francis

for the 56th World Day of Peace – 1st January 2023

with reference to the

Scripture Readings of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God.


In this time of global turmoil due to the war in Ukraine and the threat of famine in the Horn of Africa, the plea of Pope Francis in his message for the New Year 2023 is most relevant.  Pope Francis calls us at this time ‘to keep our hearts open to hope and to trust in God’.  In the spirit of the first reading for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God from the Book of Numbers, Pope Francis is inviting us to be open to the Good Lord’s blessing of graciousness and peace (Num: 6:22-27).

We believe that God, far from being distant, is present in the happenings of our world.  We are called to be present, to be alert through constant prayer to be ready ‘to glimpse the first light of dawn’.  Always, we are sustained by the coming of Jesus among us, which we have celebrated at Christmas as proclaimed in the second reading from St. Paul to the Galatians with the words, “God sent his Son” (Gal: 4:4-7).  Therefore, we can call on God, the Father, in prayer with the words that Jesus gave us, “Abba, Father”.

We have been through and are still experiencing the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic; the tragedy of deaths of family and friends as well as the restrictions on their funerals.  We have the ongoing issues of long-Covid, the fears of returning to social interaction resulting in the isolation and the loneliness of many people.  We have come to realise our fragility as a society and of how the pandemic exposed inequalities that pose a risk to peace in our world.

Pope Francis calls us to reflect upon the pandemic.  He asks what we have learned from it, what are the signs of life that have emerged from our experience of the pandemic.  He states that we now know for certain that we need each other and that we cannot manage alone.

Therefore, we need to be alert to how our actions have a global impact and we must work together while taking account of global issues.  In realising the futility of our reliance upon progress, which has served individual interests only, we must strive to work together to ensure an equality leading to justice and peace.  The poorest in our world have been affected most by the pandemic and so we must reach out with compassion.  We give thanks for all our frontline workers who did their best during the pandemic.  They have illustrated the solidarity that is required of us all and which will build peace for the future.

Pope Francis calls attention to ‘terrible new disaster’ ‘of war ‘driven by culpable human decisions’ in Ukraine.  He highlights the innocent lives lost as well as the ongoing impact on a global scale of food shortages and increased fuel prices.

In stating that all the crises we are experiencing are interconnected Pope Francis calls us to take responsibility and exercise compassion.  Our challenge is global and so we may feel overwhelmed.  Nevertheless, Pope Francis calls us to address inequality and injustice that arise in our relationships with each other and in our relationship with our common home, i.e., we must combat climate change.

Finally, Pope Francis calls us to respond to these seeming overwhelming challenges by relying upon ‘God’s infinite and merciful love’.  As we celebrate Mary, Our Mother, may we imitate her trust in God as she “treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart” (Lk. 2:16-21)   We pray for peace with an openness and trust in God, our Father.


+ Martin Hayes

Bishop of Kilmore