By Pope John Paul II

The only way to peace is forgiveness. To accept and give forgiveness makes possible a new quality of rapport between men, interrupting the spiral of hatred and revenge and breaks the chains of evil which bind the heart of rivals. 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. How rich are the beneficial teachings which resonate in the words of the Lord: “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust (Mt 5: 44-45)! To love the one who offends you disarms the adversary and is able to transform a battlefield into a place of supportive co-operation. 

This is a challenge that concerns individuals but also communities, peoples and all humanity. It concerns families in a special way. It is not easy to convert one’s self to forgiveness and reconciliation. To reconcile can already seem problematic when at the origin there is self-guilt. If then the other is guilty, to reconcile one’s self can be seen even as an unreasonable humiliation. To take this path, it is necessary to experience interior conversion; the courage of humble obedience to the command of Jesus is necessary. His word leaves no doubt: not only the one who provokes the estranged, but also the one who suffers must find reconciliation (cf. Mt 5:23-24). The Christian must make peace even when feeling as the victim of one who has unjustly offended and struck. The Lord himself acted in this manner.  He waits for the disciple to follow him, co-operating in this way in the brotherly redemption. 

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. The Church, announcing forgiveness and love of enemies, is conscious to inspire in the spiritual patrimony of all humanity a new way of relating to each other; a somewhat difficult way but rich in hope. In this the Church knows to rely on the help of the Lord, who never abandons one who turns to him in difficulty. 

Excerpt from the Message of Pope John Paul II for Lent 2001 - From the Vatican, 7 January 2001

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