Illustration by Rey Ian M. CruzPOPE Benedict XVI opened 2010 with a message of peace, calling on people to respect their neighbor and shun discrimination.

“Meditating on the mystery of the Face of God, and on the human face is a privileged path that leads to peace,” he said in his homily last January 1 at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.

Santisimo Rosario Parish priest Fr. Franklin Beltran, O.P., explained that since man is made in God’s image, he must be conscientious enough to fulfill what God wants him to do to attain peace.

Beltran noted that societal hierarchies and differences in religion hinder people from respecting one another as one tends to consider his or her religion as “number one” in terms of the supremacy of their God.

According to him, these can be overcome through evangelization and spreading the teachings of Christ which states that “in the eyes of God, all are created equal. We are all His children.”

The bishop of Rome emphasized the need to learn the value of respect from an early age. Children of different nationalities are a “prophecy of the humanity that we are called to form,” for they still laugh and play together despite their differences, the pope said.

“Children’s faces are like a reflection of God’s gaze on the world,” he said.

For people to perceive their neighbors as brothers in humanity, the Pope stressed that God must be present in their hearts. According to him, God makes people more sensitive to His presence through the surroundings.

In observance of the 43rd World Day of Peace and the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God last January 1, the Pope referred to the environment as one perspective of the human face, stating that if one wants to cultivate peace, one should protect creation as well. He quoted the message of Pope John Paul II for the World Day of Peace in 1990: “In our day, there is a growing awareness that world peace is threatened … also by a lack of due respect for nature,” emphasizing that respect for others and the value of safeguarding creation are closely connected.

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In response to the Pope’s call, Beltran said Thomasians can protect creation and cultivate peace by being aware of their obligation to bring their neighbors closer to God through the evangelization of His Word.

Pope on the move

Part of the Holy Father’s agenda this year are four international trips and a synod for the Middle East, to bring Christianity closer to other religions such as Islam and Judaism.

The Pope will pay a visit to the Synagogue of Rome in recognition of Pope Pius XII’s heroic virtues, despite protests of some Jews regarding the late pope’s role in the Holocaust.

The synod will take place in October in the Middle East.

The Pope’s first international trip will bring him to Malta, an archipelago evangelized by St. Paul. In May, the Pope will visit Portugal for his pilgrimage to a Marian shrine in Lourdes, and then go to Cyprus the following month to officially present the working document for the synod. His last stop will be England by September for the beatification of Cardinal John Henry Newman.

The Supreme Pontiff also plans to have four apostolic trips within Italy, the first of which is for the extraordinary exposition of the Shroud of Turin from April to May. June will mark the closing of the Year for Priests, which is expected to attract thousands of priests from all over the world.

Other significant events expected to take place this year are the beatification of his predecessor Pope John Paul II, and the release of the second part of Pope Benedict XVI’s bestseller Jesus of Nazareth.

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