Pope says enemy-love and nonviolence are central to Christ's message

By staff writers
February 19, 2007

Loving enemies is central to the way of Jesus, and Christian non-violence is not a tactical choice, it is a "a personal way of being" based on God’s alternative strength – that was the message of Pope Benedict XVI in St Peter’s Rome on Sunday 18 February 2007.

Before reciting the Angelus prayer, the leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics talked about the teaching of Jesus on love of enemies.

"What is the meaning of these words of his?" the Pope asked. "Why does Jesus ask us to love our enemies, that is, a love that surpasses human capacity?"

He continued: "In reality, the suggestion of Christ is realistic because it takes into account that there is too much violence, too much injustice in the world and therefore the situation cannot be overcome unless it is countered by more love and more goodness.

"This 'more' comes from God: it is [God’s] mercy, which became flesh in Jesus and alone can 'turn the balance' of the world away from evil towards good, starting from that small and decisive 'world' that is the heart of [humanity]."

Pope Benedict added: "this Gospel page is rightly considered to be the Magna Carta of Christian non-violence, which consists not of giving in to evil - according to a false interpretation of 'turning the other cheek' - but in responding to evil with good, thus breaking the chains of injustice."

Christian non-violence is not merely tactical behaviour but "the attitude of one who is so convinced of the love and strength of God that [she] is not afraid to face evil armed with just the weapons of love and truth."

The Pope concluded: "Loving one's enemy constitutes the nucleus of the "Christian revolution" which changes the world "without making any noise about it."

US Methodist theologian Walter Wink is among those who have pointed out that ‘turning the other cheek’ is not about giving in – but in the Jewish culture of Jesus’ day was a challenge to an oppressor, who would demean himself by striking with the left hand.

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