The president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, Archbishop José H. Gomez of Los Angeles, has issued the following statement marking the 53rd World Day of Peace on January 1, 2020.
Archbishop Gomez’s full statement follows:
In this holy season, Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, the living God who comes among us as the Prince of Peace, to bring peace to our hearts and peace on earth.
Yet we are aware always that our world and our lives are far from peaceful. So many of our brothers and sisters are living in countries torn by war and injustice, terrorism and persecution; many suffer violence because of race, religion, ideology or nationality. Many of our brothers and sisters, even children, are being bought and sold and living in slavery; millions in our world have no place to call home because of poverty and instability.
In our neighborhoods and communities, violence and cruelty are a sad and ordinary reality of daily life. Still children in our country are killed each day in the womb, and many of our neighbors do not have what they need to lead a dignified life. Our politics and cultural discourse are often marked by anger and a merciless and unforgiving contempt for others.
This season we note with particular sadness the violent attacks on people of faith. To name just a few incidents: worshippers in a church in Texas are assaulted by a gunman; in New York, a man goes on a stabbing rampage during a Hanukkah celebration in a rabbi’s home. Christians in Nigeria are beheaded and their killers share video of the atrocity worldwide.
It needs to be said that violence in the name of God is blasphemy. The rise of antisemitic violence in this country and around the world must be condemned along with the ongoing persecution of Christians. Protecting religious freedom and freedom of conscience should be among the highest priorities of every government.
Jesus Christ came as a child on Christmas to show us that every person is a child of God, made in his image. He came to show us that all humanity is one family, that we are all brothers and sisters no matter where we are born, the color of our skin or the language that we speak. Jesus suffered and died to show us how precious each one of us is in the eyes of God, and he calls us to love one another as he loves us, with no exceptions.
So, on this World Day of Peace, the Catholic Church in the United States joins our Holy Father Pope Francis and the Church worldwide in praying for peace. We pray for peace in our hearts and peace in our world. We pray for the conversion of every heart that hates and we pray for the courage to overcome evil with good and respond to hatred with love.
We know that peace is God’s gift, and peace begins when we recognize his presence in every person, when we love him and serve him in the poor and defenseless, in those who are ill, in the refugee, the immigrant, and the prisoner, in every person that our society or economy cannot find a place for.
As we begin a new year and a new decade, we entrust ourselves and our nation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. We ask her to intercede for us and to help us to walk on the path of peace.