A New Year’s resolution: working for peace Print
Written by Mary Uhler   
Thursday, Dec. 25, 2014 -- 12:00 AM

Most of us think of New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day as occasions to enjoy some food and drink with our family and friends. We might even wear party hats!

But according to the Church calendar, New Year’s Day is much more than a day to party. First of all, it is a holy day of obligation— the Feast of the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. That means that faithful Catholics are obliged to attend Mass that day.

World Day of Peace

In addition, the Catholic Church has designated January 1 as the World Day of Peace. This was introduced in 1967 by Blessed Paul VI, who was inspired to do so by the encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) written by his predecessor, St. John XXIII.

Each year since January 1, 1968, the Holy Father has written a message for the World Day of Peace.  This year, Pope Francis’ message is entitled, “No Longer Slaves, but Brothers and Sisters” (the entire text is available on the Vatican website at

It is obvious that Pope Francis intends his message for everyone in the world, not just members of the Catholic Church.

As such, he starts his message with a greeting, “At the beginning of this New Year, which we welcome as God’s gracious gift to all humanity, I offer heartfelt wishes of peace to every man and woman, to all the world’s peoples and nations, to heads of state and government, and to religious leaders.

“In doing so, I pray for an end to wars, conflicts, and the great suffering caused by human agency, by epidemics past and present, and by the devastation wrought by natural disasters. I pray especially that, on the basis of our common calling to cooperate with God and all people of good will for the advancement of harmony and peace in the world, we may resist the temptation to act in a manner unworthy of our humanity.”

Ending slavery

In this year’s message, Pope Francis especially focuses on the issue of slavery. Although slavery has been formally abolished through the world, the pope observes that millions of people today of all ages “are deprived of freedom and forced to live in conditions akin to slavery.”

He mentions workers throughout the world, including children, whose rights are not protected. He also talks about the living conditions of many migrants, persons forced into prostitution, those involved in human trafficking, and those kidnapped and held captive by terrorist groups.

The pope encourages governments and institutions to work to prevent slavery, protect victims, and prosecute perpetrators.

What we can do

Beyond those efforts, he invites all men and women of good will to ask  “whether we feel challenged when, in our daily lives, we meet or deal with persons who could be victims of human trafficking, or when we are tempted to select items which may well have been produced by exploiting others.”

We can’t close our eyes, he says, but instead help by “offering a kind word, a greeting, or a smile”  to those we meet. We can also shop carefully as responsible consumers.

As a New Year’s resolution, all of us should work and pray for peace in the world, beginning with our own lives. Thank you, Pope Francis, for reminding us to treat our fellow human beings with respect and dignity.