Papal Lenten Message
The only Path to Peace is Pardon

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popemult.gif (87154 bytes) VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope John Paul II asked Christians to radically embrace the Gospel command to love one's enemy, saying forgiveness was the only way to peace between peoples and nations.

"In our times, forgiveness appears more and more as a necessary dimension for an authentic social renewal and for the strengthening of peace in the world,'' he said in his annual message for Lent.

The 1,600-word message, centering on the scriptural phrase, "Love is not resentful,'' was presented at a Vatican press conference Friday, 9 Feb 2001.

The Pope said Lent, a traditional time of reconciling with God, should prompt believers to re-examine whether their lives conform to Christ's command to "love your enemies (and) do good to those who hate you.''

"They are words that, if taken seriously, demand a radical conversion,'' he said.

"In addition to asking forgiveness for wrongs committed, the Christian must make peace even when feeling as the victim of one who has unjustly offended and struck,'' he said.

He said only interior conversion and "humble obedience to the command of Jesus'' could enable believers to resist "the psychological mechanisms of self-pity and revenge.''

He particularly emphasized the importance of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, saying the experience of receiving God's forgiveness "encourages us to live in love, considering the other not as enemy but as a brother.''

"In addition to its spiritual fruits, forgiveness brings peace between peoples and opens individuals to the material needs of others," he said.

Especially in places where conflict has left enduring animosity among peoples, accepting and offering forgiveness interrupts "the spiral of hatred and revenge, and breaks the chains of evil which bind the hearts of rivals,'' he said.

"For nations in search of reconciliation and for those hoping for peaceful coexistence among individuals and peoples, there is no other way than forgiveness received and offered,'' he said.

He said spiritual reconciliation also predisposes individuals to see and respond to the material needs of others, because "a heart reconciled with God and with neighbor is a generous heart.''

When done with a reconciled heart, the traditional Lenten practice of almsgiving "assumes a deeper meaning, because it is not just giving something from the surplus to relieve one's conscience, but to truly take upon one's self the misery present in the world,'' he said.