Pope Benedict XVI, in his annual World Day of Peace message, captures the ambivalence of the present moment but also the appropriate Christian response when he writes: 

“I invite you to look to 2012 with this attitude of confident trust. It is true that the year now ending has been marked by a rising sense of frustration at the crisis looming over society, the world of labor and the economy, a crisis whose roots are primarily cultural and anthropological. It seems as if a shadow has fallen over our time, preventing us from clearly seeing the light of day.” 

There is a great unease through our land. In the United States, we remain divided ideologically, culturally, economically. In many ways the stalemates that have plagued our government for the past year reflect a broader stalemate on a host of issues.  

Around the world, and particularly in the West, the economic crisis of Europe has unnerved people. Governments have fallen, but whole economies may be next. In Africa, elites battle for power while the masses of people suffer terribly in countries from Somalia and Sudan, to the Congo, Zimbabwe and South Africa. 

New dangers await on the Korean Peninsula, and war continues in Afghanistan, strife in the Middle East, and an uneasy new era begins in Iraq with the final withdrawal last month of U.S. military personnel. 

How difficult it is to have hope. Yet the pope finds reason for hope in the world’s young, that “with their enthusiasm and idealism [they] can offer new hope to the world.” He calls it a real duty of all — and not just a matter of expediency — to be attentive to young people, listen to them and appreciate them. Addressing them, he calls them a “precious gift” to society and to the Church, and “an example and an inspiration to adults, even more so to the extent that you seek to overcome injustice and corruption and strive to build a better future.” 

At the same time, he underscores the common responsibility of those of the present generation to train the future generation to “be people of peace and builders of peace.”

Several of his recommendations include: 

Parents, see presence to your children as one of the greatest “treasures” you can give. “This presence makes it possible to share more deeply in the journey of life and thus to pass on experiences and convictions gained with the passing of the years, experiences and convictions which can only be communicated by spending time together.” 

Americans, be on watch against modern cultural currents like individualism that detach our understanding of justice from its roots: “charity and solidarity.” 

Christians, work on a spiritual maturity makeover. “In order to be true peacemakers, we must educate ourselves in compassion, solidarity, working together, fraternity, in being active within the community and concerned to raise awareness about national and international issues and the importance of seeking adequate mechanisms for the redistribution of wealth, the promotion of growth, cooperation for development and conflict resolution.” 

Because if we are to teach the next generation the joy that comes from the daily exercise of charity and compassion, we first must live it, the pope notes: 

“Today more than ever we need authentic witnesses, and not simply people who parcel out rules and facts; we need witnesses capable of seeing farther than others because their life is so much broader.” 

May your 2012 be broader, more joyful and more confident. 

Editorial Board: Greg Erlandson, publisher; Msgr. Owen F. Campion, associate publisher; Beth McNamara, editorial director; John Norton, editor; Sarah Hayes, presentation editor.