By Ken Butigan
The Vatican has announced that Pope Francis will issue his annual World Day of Peace message for the first time on the theme of nonviolence.
Entitled “Nonviolence: The Style of Politics of Peace,” the January 1, 2017 papal message will be sent to all foreign ministries worldwide. Announced by Vatican Radio this week, the traditional message is intended to indicate “the diplomatic concerns of the Holy See during the coming year.”
Posted on the Vatican Radio website, the announcement calls nonviolence “a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.” By issuing this message, the pope “wants to show a further step, a path of hope, appropriate to today’s historical circumstances. In this way, the settlement of disputes may be reached through negotiation without then degenerating into armed conflict. Within such a perspective the culture and identity of peoples are respected and the opinion that some are morally superior to others is overcome.”
Nonviolence is key, the announcement stressed, to recognizing “not the right of force but the force of right.”
Pope Francis’s decision to highlight nonviolence in his 2017 worldwide message comes at a time when the Vatican increasingly seeks to support nonviolent solutions to conflicts around the world.
It also follows in the wake of the landmark “Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference,” co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International and held this past April in Rome, which called on Pope Francis to share with the world an encyclical on nonviolence.
Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service was part of a global planning committee which organized this historic event. Pace e Bene staff—including Fr. John Dear and Ken Butigan—are currently serving with Catholic Nonviolence Initiative, the international body that is organizing the follow-up to the Rome assembly.
The vision of nonviolence conveyed in this announcement—as a comprehensive, constructive and effective method for peace—is a powerful and historic contribution to the growing movement to build a more just, peaceful and sustainable world.Φ
Ken Butigan is director of Pace e Bene, a nonprofit organization fostering nonviolent change through education, community and action. He also teaches peace studies at DePaul University and Loyola University in Chicago.