Pope Benedict XVI completes his trip to the Holy Land this Friday. He travels as a pilgrim to the place from which sprung Judaism and Islam and which witnessed the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and the foundation of His Church.
Some might have wondered what the Pope or even the Church could do to promote peace in that region of the world where so much animosity and mistrust exist between people of three faith traditions. Even before his flight from Rome to Jordan touched down, the Holy Father addressed the challenge of peace by offering a lesson that resounds far beyond the Middle East.
“I see (a contribution to be made on) three levels,” he said. “As believers, we are convinced that prayer is a true force. It opens the world to God: We are convinced that God listens and that he can act in history. I think that if millions of people – believers – would pray, it could really be a force that could influence and contribute to the advancement of peace.
“Second point: We try to help in the formation of consciences. The conscience is the capacity of mankind to perceive the truth, but particular interests often block this capacity. And it is a big job to liberate from these interests, to open more to the truth, to the true values: It is a duty of the Church to help one to know the true criteria, the true values, and to liberate ourselves from particular interests.
“And thus, the third point: Let us draw reason in as well …. (P)recisely because we are not a political party, perhaps too we can more easily, with the light of faith, see the true criteria, help bring an understanding of what contributes to peace and speak to reason, to support the truly reasonable positions. And this we have already done, and we want to do so now and in the future.”
The themes of Pope Benedict’s answer apply to the problems faced by people anywhere in the world. Be it peace, respect for life or any major public policy issue, Catholics have the potential to effect real change for true progress.
The Church hopes to persuade by proposing solutions that are eminently reasonable for all; by encouraging the exercise of one’s conscience while always seeking to form it in the truth of the Gospel; and by persisting in prayer to God who works all things to His will, in His good time.