January 1, 2004
Pope John Paul II presides
over a morning Mass
in St. Peter's Basilica
Thursday, to mark the World Day of Peace.
VATICAN CITY (AP)
Pope John Paul II rang in the New Year on
Thursday with a renewed call for peace in the Middle East and Africa and the
creation of a
New World Order based on respect for the
dignity of man and equality among nations.
John Paul presided over a morning Mass inside St. Peter's Basilica to mark
the World Day of Peace, which the Roman Catholic Church celebrates
every January 1. He appeared in good form, delivering his entire homily in a
strong and clear voice despite a relatively tiring holiday schedule.
This year, John Paul directed his thoughts to continuing conflicts around
the globe. But he stressed that to bring about peace, there needs to be a
new respect for international law and the creation of a "new international
order" based on the goals of
He called for,
"an order that is able to give adequate
solutions to today's problems based on the dignity of the human being,
on an integral development of society, on solidarity among nations rich
and poor, on the sharing of resources and the extraordinary results of
scientific and technical progress."
The pope lamented continuing violence between
Israel and the Palestinians, and also offered his prayers for his ambassador
to Burundi, Archbishop Michael Courtney, who was gunned down by assailants
this week as he returned from a funeral.
John Paul said Courtney was killed "while he carried out his mission in
favor of dialogue and reconciliation" in the central African country, which
has been wracked by violence for a decade.
"Let us pray for him, hoping that his
example and sacrifice will bring about the fruits of peace in Burundi
and the world," he said.
Earlier this month, John Paul issued a formal
document marking the World Day of Peace in which he called for a
reform of the United Nations and international law to deal with the evolving
threat of terrorism.
He said a new respect for international law was the only way to achieve
peace and guarantee against the arbitrary use of force. He did not mention
the United States by name, but his message appeared aimed at the U.S.
anti-terrorism campaign—and in particular at Washington's pre-emptive war in
Iraq, which was launched without the specific authorization of the United
John Paul was a vocal critic of the Iraq war, dispatching envoys to
Washington and Baghdad to try to prevent hostilities from breaking out and
exhorting world leaders that war was not inevitable and was "always a defeat
"Because peace is possible... it is
necessary," he said during his homily Thursday.
The New Year's Mass was the last major
celebration of the Christmas season for John Paul, who is 83 and suffers
from Parkinson's disease, which makes it difficult for him to speak, as well
as knee and hip ailments that make it almost impossible for him to walk or
He cut back some of his holiday activities and scrapped two traditional
papal events—the ordination of bishops January 6 and baptisms on January 11.
But throughout the Christmas season, he has appeared far stronger than
during the series of celebrations in October marking his 25th anniversary as
Then, he was unable to deliver many of his
homilies and had to have others to read them on his behalf.