12/16/2011, 00.00
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Without God there is no peace. The end of relativism and the Christianity of "values"

by Bernardo Cervellera
In his Message for World Day of Peace 2012, Benedict XVI places the foundations for a new "earthly city" and a new social pact. The current crisis – in the economic sphere - first of all is rooted in a "cultural anthropology". Defeating relativism with the search for truth. The forgetfulness of Christian peace movements.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) - In his message for World Day of Peace 2012, Benedict XVI did not mince his words: to "educate young people to justice and peace" - the theme of this year - should help the youth to discover the transcendental and religious dimension of the person, from which all dignity, rights, respect and coexistence among men, flows.

In the face of frustrated expectations, anxieties, insecurities experienced by young people today who are, "a precious gift to society," he says, " It is not ideologies that save the world, but only a return to the living God, our Creator, the guarantor of our freedom, the guarantor of what is really good and true "(No. 5).

By doing this, the pope goes straight to the root causes of the current economic and human crisis, that "is looming over society, the world of labour and the economy, a crisis whose roots are primarily cultural and anthropological "(No. 1).

At the same time, inviting young people, families, educators and politicians to rediscover the religious roots of justice and peace, he brushes aside as outdated (and about time), that Christianity of "values," according to which Christians must take their place in the queue along side and in support of other neutral "secular" values, always keeping their private and religious motivations hidden.

For the pope the economic and social crisis that destroys the hopes of young and leaves the old impotent, is fuelled by the "relativism which, recognizing nothing as definitive, leaves as the ultimate criterion only the self with its desires. And under the semblance of freedom it becomes a prison for each one, for it separates people from one another, locking each person into his or her own self. With such a relativistic horizon, therefore, real education is not possible without the light of the truth; sooner or later, every person is in fact condemned to doubting the goodness of his or her own life and the relationships of which it consists, the validity of his or her commitment to build with others something in common"(n. 3).

The fight against the "dictatorship of relativism" has been the battle cry of Benedict XVI since the beginning of his pontificate. But in this he also collects the desire of much contemporary culture. The philosopher Jurgen Habermas - a friend of Ratzinger - has said several times that in order to give substance to the Western culture it must return to live "as if God existed", otherwise the building of the rights and values will collapse like a house of cards. Even Julia Kristeva, invited by the Pope to Assisi in October last, sees in overcoming the "age of suspicion" and opening to the Judeo-Christian tradition, the possibility of overcoming totalitarianisms, and the shoals of secularism.

Therefore, to educate young people to justice and peace, Benedict XVI proposes primarily to educate them to truth and freedom.

The human face of a society - said the pope - depends very much on the contribution of education to keep this irrepressible question alive. But " in order to educate in truth, it is necessary first and foremost to know who the human person is, to know human nature... This is the fundamental question that must be asked: who is man? Man is a being who bears within his heart a thirst for the infinite, a thirst for truth – a truth which is not partial but capable of explaining life’s meaning – since he was created in the image and likeness of God"(No. 3).

"'The authentic development of man – he also emphasizes - authentic human development concerns the whole of the person in every single dimension”,3 including the transcendent dimension, and that the person cannot be sacrificed for the sake of attaining a particular good, whether this be economic or social, individual or collective"(No. 3).

This leads us to understand that freedom " is not the absence of constraint or the supremacy of free will, it is not the absolutism of the self. When man believes himself to be absolute, to depend on nothing and no one, to be able to do anything he wants, he ends up contradicting the truth of his own being and forfeiting his freedom. On the contrary, man is a relational being, who lives
in relationship with others and especially with God. Authentic freedom can never be attained independently of God."(No. 3).

"The right use of freedom - he concludes - The right use of freedom, then, is central to the promotion of justice and peace, which require respect for oneself and others, including those whose way of being and living differs greatly from one’s own. This attitude engenders the elements without which peace and justice remain merely words without content: mutual trust, the capacity to hold constructive dialogue, the possibility of forgiveness, which one constantly wishes to receive but finds hard to bestow, mutual charity, compassion towards the weakest, as well as readiness to make sacrifices."(No. 3).

According to the Pope, the only way to overcome the “contractual" vision of justice, is a "human convention" that seeks a synthesis of individual interests, and opens to solidarity and peace. Thanks to the foundation of God's love, we can "must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution"(No. 5).

While the world seems shocked by the extent of the crisis and seeking solutions to contemporary techniques and materials to the economic abyss, one gets the impression that the Pope is building a new "city of man", based on a new social pact, which has the its foundation in the rediscovery of God and the dignity of men, image and likeness of God

And it is striking that while governments increase taxes, Benedict XVI demands aid for families so that they can be "present" in the lives of their children, educational institutions that respect the religious freedom and education for young people and parents, politicians that provide a transparent image of politics as a genuine service to the good of all "(No 2).

The message this year is also an invitation to all Christian peace movements for an examination of conscience. So far, they have devoted their efforts to shouting against weapons and missiles, poverty and the environment: all good things, but perhaps have forgotten that the first contribution to peace is to witness to the truth, their faith in Jesus Christ.

To read the complete text of the Message, click here.
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