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Response to the message from His Holiness Pope John Paul II


World Day of Peace

1 January 2002

Statement by the Taoiseach, Mr. Bertie Ahern, T.D., in response to the message from His Holiness Pope John Paul II

I very much welcome this year's World Day of Peace message from Pope John Paul II which makes a strong linkage between peace, justice and forgiveness. The message from His Holiness carries a clear statement "no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness".

Arising from the very close connection between justice for the individual and peace for all, His Holiness notes that the World Day of Peace "offers all humanity, and particularly the leaders of nations, the opportunity to reflect upon the demands of justice and the call to forgiveness in the face of the grave problems which continue to afflict the world". I would also like to join with the Pope in echoing this call.

The focus on justice in His Holiness' message is particularly appropriate. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights explicitly links respect for human rights as necessary to the maintenance of international peace - it states that respect for human rights and human dignity "is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world". As we are all too aware, history is sadly littered with examples of situations where the denial of justice and human rights sowed the seeds of conflict and violence. In the words of the Holy Father: "the recruitment of terrorists is easier in situations where rights are trampled upon and injustices tolerated over a long period of time". Unfortunately the provisions of the Universal Declaration are still being violated through oppression and strife. It is imperative that the world community raises its voice in defence of, and in the promotion of, the rights enunciated in that and other UN human rights instruments.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights marked a solemn commitment to the highest human aspirations and ideals. However, as the events of 11 September have shown these aspirations and ideals are far from being realised. The callous disregard for human life we have witnessed should encourage each of us to carry the bright torch of peace, in our communities, on our island and in our world. The emphasis laid by the Pope on building peace has particular resonance for all of us in Ireland today. We in Ireland share the pain expressed by His Holiness at "the sequence of personal and collective tragedies" which is the conflict in the Holy Land, so prominent in our thoughts at this time.

Ireland is faced with new challenges and responsibilities because of our new-found prosperity. The Message from His Holiness reminds us that the dignity and rights of individuals should be our guiding principle when coping with these challenges and dealing with our responsibilities.

On behalf of the Government of Ireland, I warmly welcome the message of His Holiness Pope John Paul II for World Peace Day 2002 and join with the people of Ireland in marking this important day.

In doing so, we praise the initiative taken by His Holiness in inviting the world's religions to gather in Assisi on 24 January in support of mutual respect and harmony and to join in the prayer of St. Francis to make each of us a "channel of His peace".