Archbishop Chia issues first Pastoral Letter THE tragedy of Sep 11 and the sufferings and tensions in its aftermath have brought to the consciousness of the world the urgent need to build a culture of respectful dialogue and cooperation between all the members of the human family.
In the shadow of that tragedy, His Holiness Pope John Paul II issued a powerful message for the World Day Of Peace, Jan 1, 2002. The theme of his message, No Peace Without Justice. No Justice Without Forgiveness, addresses a number of issues in our contemporary world, placing emphasis on the necessity of justice and forgiveness as the source and condition of true peace for all.
To eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism, religious leaders must work together and emphasize the greatness and dignity of the human person and the oneness of the human family and at the same time take the lead in publicly condemning terrorism and denying terrorists any form of religious or moral legitimacy.
In our pursuit of peace in the world, let us bear in mind that peace is the work of justice and love. True peace is the fruit of justice which ensures full respect for rights and responsibilities, and the just distribution of benefits and burdens.
Human justice however is always fragile and imperfect due to the limitations and egoism of individuals and groups. Hence there must also always be a place for torgiveness which heals and rebuilds troubled human relations. Forgiveness is the opposite of resentment and revenge, not of justice. We need to work together to eliminate the social and cultural causes of terrorism. His Holiness sees the need to pray for peace, for to pray for peace is to open the human heart to the inroads of God’s power to renew all things. With the life-giving force of his grace, God can create openings for peace where only obstacles and closures are apparent.
To pray for peace is to pray for justice and freedom. To pray for peace is to seek God’s forgiveness and implore the courage to forgive those who have trespassed against us. Bearing in mind that Religions call for a human solidarity through understanding and peace, and as a sign of our solidarity, Pope John Paul II has invited representatives of the world’s religions to sign a COMMITMENT TO PEACE at the Assisi Pilgrimage in Italy. This Pilgrimage will be held on Jan 24, 2002.
As a spiritual preparation for this important event, His Holiness had requested a day of fasting on Dec 14 involving all the faithful, with the exception of the sick, to obtain the gift of peace and conversion of heart and to channel whatever is saved through fasting to the poor and suffering as a consequence of terrorism and war.
This fasting should be accompanied by pilgrimage and prayer. Pilgrimage is a sign of the demanding journey which each follower of Christ is to undertake in order to attain conversion Prayer is the central moment in which to listen to God and fill the “void” created in us by the purification of fasting and the silence of pilgrimage. There can be no possibility of peace without prayer.
In our Archdiocese, on district level, one church is to be designated as pilgrim site for parishioners of the district to gather and pray for unity and peace either on Mon, Jan 21 or Tues, Jan 22.
On Jan 23, the eve of the pilgrimage of the pope and religious leaders to Assisi, there will be an Archdiocesan Pilgrimage to be held at Holy Family Church at 8 pm. It is my hope and prayer that you will generously respond to the ardent request of His Holiness and participate in our Archdiocesan District Prayer Service And Pilgrimage. Together with His Holiness, Pope John Paul II and the leaders of the various Christian confessions as well as the world’s great religions, let us be united in prayer and sacrifice to pray for peace in the world. May the Spirit of God enlighten and empower you to be instruments of peace. God bless you all.
Yours devotedly in Christ,
Archbishop Nicholas Chia
Given at the Archbishop’s House,
Singapore, Jan 10, 2002