World Day of Peace 2017 to Focus on Nonviolent Politics

Pope Francis said in his Aug. 26 message, 'The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences. … Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress.'

Pope Francis arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Aug. 24.
Pope Francis arrives for his general audience in St. Peter's Square on Aug. 24. (photo: CNA/Daniel Ibáñez)

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis focused the theme for the 2017 World Day of Peace on nonviolence as a political solution to what he has frequently termed a “piecemeal World War III” being waged throughout the globe.

“Violence and Peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society,” an Aug. 26 communique from the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace announcing the theme read.

“The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences. … Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress.”

Therefore, “we should act within what is possible, and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical,” the message attached to the theme said.

By doing so, non-violence can take on “a more comprehensive and new meaning” composed not only of mere desire or a moral rejection of violence, barriers and destructive impulses, but also “of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.”

Titled “Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace,” the theme for 2017’s World Day of Peace marks the 50th anniversary of the celebration, and the fourth of Pope Francis’ pontificate.

Instituted by Blessed Pope Paul VI in 1968, the World Day of Peace is celebrated each year on Jan. 1, which is also the Solemnity of Mary the Mother of God. The Pope gives a special message for the occasion, which is sent to all foreign ministers around the world, and which also indicates the Holy See’s diplomatic tone during the coming year.

So far Pope Francis’ messages have focused on themes close to his heart, such as fraternity, an end to slavery, including forced labor and human trafficking, as well as overcoming indifference on both an individual and a political level.

His messages for the event have consistently included bold pastoral and political advice for both ecclesial and international leaders, including his push for the abolition of the death penalty and amnesty for prisoners convicted of political offenses.

In the communique introducing the 2017 theme, it was stressed that nonviolence as a political strategy is “based on the primacy of law.”

If the equal rights and dignity of each individual are respected without discrimination, “then non-violence, understood as a political method, can constitute a realistic way to overcome arm conflicts.”

Pope Francis’ aim in choosing this theme, the statement read, is to show “a path of hope” that’s proportionate to the context of today’s global circumstances.

“In this way, the settlement of disputes may be reached through negotiation without then degenerating into armed conflict.” With this perspective in mind, the cultural identity of different peoples will be respected, and the idea that some are “morally superior” to others will be overcome.

The statement cautioned that nonviolence isn’t the same as remaining indifferent to tragedies, but rather implies a recognition “of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms.”

“Arms trade is so widespread that it is generally underestimated,” the statement read, adding that illegal arms trafficking supports “not a few world’s conflicts,” and nonviolence as a political style “can and must do much to stem this scourge.”

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