Pictures courtesy of Daylife
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Having respect for every human being and for all of creation as God's handiwork and having trust in God's overwhelming love are the keys to peace and to a better future, Pope Benedict XVI said.
Marking the new year with the celebration Jan. 1 of the feast of Mary Mother of God and of World Peace Day and with Angelus recitations Jan. 1 and 3, Pope Benedict reminded Christians that God's promises require a response.
"The divine plan is not accomplished automatically, because it is a plan of love and love generates freedom and asks for freedom," he said during his Angelus address Jan. 3.
While God's kingdom of peace and justice already is being realized on earth, he said, "every man and woman is responsible for welcoming it into his or her own life day by day. So 2010 will be better or worse to the extent that people, accepting their own responsibility, learn to collaborate with the grace of God."
"There are problems in the church and in the world, as well as in the daily lives of families, but thanks to God our hope does not depend on improbable prognostications and even less on economic forecasts. Our hope is in God," he said.
The pope also spoke about personal responsibility Jan. 1 when he was commenting on the theme he chose for World Peace Day 2010: "If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation."
The resources of the earth must be used with justice and wisdom, he said during his Angelus address Jan. 1.
"I want to underline the importance that the choices of individuals, families and local administrations have in protecting the environment," he said.
In educating people to respect creation, the pope said, they must be helped to recognize that the human beings God created in his own image and likeness require special respect and protection.
"If we must take care of the creatures around us, how much more care must we have for people -- our brothers and sisters," he said. "On the first day of the year, I want to appeal to the consciences of those who are part of any kind of armed group. To each and every one I say: Stop, reflect and abandon the path of violence."
In his homily during the morning Mass in St. Peter's Basilica Jan. 1, Pope Benedict said people will respect the environment only to the extent that they respect themselves and others, because true respect for creation means seeing all creation as a reflection of God, the creator.
Teaching people to respect others must begin early in childhood, he said.
"From the time they are small, it is important to educate children to respect others, even when they are different from us," he said.
Children who are part of multiethnic classes have an advantage, he said, because the faces of the children "are a prophecy of the humanity we are called to form: a family of families and peoples."
"The smaller these children are, the more they elicit from us tenderness and joy for an innocence and brotherhood that is evident: despite their differences they cry and laugh in the same way, they have the same needs, they communicate spontaneously and play together," he said.
However, the pope said, the smiles of too many children are extinguished by suffering and their hearts are poisoned by violence.
In them, one can see "faces lined by hunger and disease, faces disfigured by pain and desperation. The faces of these innocent little ones are a silent appeal to our responsibility," the pope said.
Recognizing their helplessness, "all the false justifications for war and violence fall away. We simply must convert to projects of peace, lay down weapons of every kind and, all of us together, make a commitment to building a world more worthy of humanity."