As the Pastor of the universal Church I would be failing in my duty if I did not speak out in favour of respect for the inalienable right of the Gospel to be proclaimed "to the whole creation" (Mk 16: 15), and if I did not repeat that God has ordered civil society to the service of the human person, to whom belongs the freedom to seek and embrace the truth. The commitment to truth, freedom, justice and peace is a mark of the followers of Christ the Lord. For we bear in our hearts the revealed certainty that God the Father, through his crucified Son, who "is our peace" (Eph 2: 14), has made of us a new People, which has as a condition the freedom of the children of God and as a statute the precept of fraternal love.
As the People of the New Covenant, we know that our freedom fmds its highest expression in total acceptance of the divine call to salvation, and with the Apostle John we profess: "we know and believe the love God has for us " (1 Jn 4:16), the love manifested in his Word made flesh. From this free and liberating act of faith there flow a new vision of. the world, a new approach to our brethren, a new way of existing as a leaven in society. It is the "new commandment" (Jn 13:34) which the Lord has given us; it is "his peace" (cf. Jn 14:27)—not the peace of the world that is always imperfect—which he has left us.
We have to live completely and responsibly the freedom which comes to us from being children of God and which opens our eyes to transcendent prospects. We have to commit ourselves with all our strength to living the new commandment, allowing ourselves to be enlightened by the peace which has been given to us and radiating it to those around us. "By this ", the Lord admonishes us, "all men will know that you are my disciples" (Jn 13:35).
I am well aware that this formidable commitment is beyond our poor powers. How many divisions and misunderstandings we Christians bear a certain responsibility for, and how much more remains for us to build, in our own spirits, in our families and communities, beneath the banner of reconciliation and fraternal charity! And, as we have to admit, the conditions of the world make the task no easier. The temptation to violence is always there. Selfishness, materialism and pride make man ever less free and society ever less open to the demands of brotherhood. Be this as it may, we must not become discouraged: Jesus, our Master and Lord, is with us always, to the close of the age (cf. Mt 28:20).
My thoughts turn with particular affection to those brothers and sisters who are deprived of the freedom to profess their Christian faith, to all who are suffering persecution for the name of Christ, to those who for his sake must suffer rejection and humiliation. I want these brothers and sisters of ours to feel our spiritual closeness, our solidarity, and the comfort of our prayer. We know that their sacrifice, to the extent that it is joined to Christ's, bears fruits of true peace.
Brothers and sisters in the faith: the commitment to peace is one of the testimonies which today makes us credible in the eyes of the world, and especially in the eyes of the younger generation. The great challenge facing modern man, the challenge to his true freedom, is found in the Gospel Beatitude: "Blessed are the peacemakers" (Mt 5: 9).