Catholics celebrate Peace Sunday with an added twist

By staff writers
January 18, 2010

There was an added poignancy to Peace Sunday celebrations in Catholic parishes across in England and Wales yesterday, as the focus on environmental justice coincided with the unfolding tragedy in Haiti following the devastating earthquake.

The theme for the 43nd World Day of Peace message by Pope Benedict XVI, released on 1 January and read in many churches on 17 January 2010 was 'If you want to cultivate peace, protect creation'.

Christian churches across Britain held collections for the Haiti emergency appeal, either in addition to or in place of regular ones. Faith groups have helped to raise millions of pounds over the past six days.

Resource materials from the Catholic peace agency Pax Christi were widely used.

Meanwhile, Pope Benedict's message reflected on "a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of “environmental refugees”, people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development."

Twenty years ago, Pope John Paul II devoted his Message for the World Day of Peace to the theme 'Peace with God the Creator, Peace with All of Creation'. He emphasized the human relationship with the universe as a whole.

“In our day”, he wrote, “there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened … also by a lack of due respect for nature”. He added that “ecological awareness, rather than being downplayed, needs to be helped to develop and mature, and find fitting expression in concrete programmes and initiatives”.

Previous Popes have spoken of the relationship between human beings and the environment. In 1971 Paul VI pointed out that “by an ill-considered exploitation of nature (humanity) risks destroying it and becoming in his turn the victim of this degradation”. He added that “not only is the material environment becoming a permanent menace – pollution and refuse, new illnesses and absolute destructive capacity – but the human framework is no longer under (humanity's) control, thus creating an environment for tomorrow which may well be intolerable. This is a wide-ranging social problem which concerns the entire human family”

The 2010 Papal World Day of Peace message can be read in full here:

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