no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness

As we commemorate the 19th anniversary of the September 11 attacks, I think again of the reflection Pope Saint John Paul II wrote shortly afterward on the occasion of the World Day of Peace. It was one of the very first things I posted after launching my website,, in 2001.

It seems apropos today, both in this context and in the context of the current scandals in the Church.

Forgiveness is in no way opposed to justice, as if to forgive meant to overlook the need to right the wrong done. It is rather the fullness of justice, leading to that tranquility of order which is much more than a fragile and temporary cessation of hostilities, involving as it does the deepest healing of the wounds which fester in human hearts. Justice and forgiveness are both essential to such healing….

No peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness: I shall not tire of repeating this warning to those who, for one reason or another, nourish feelings of hatred, a desire for revenge or the will to destroy.

On this World Day of Peace, may a more intense prayer rise from the hearts of all believers for the victims of terrorism, for their families so tragically stricken, for all the peoples who continue to be hurt and convulsed by terrorism and war. May the light of our prayer extend even to those who gravely offend God and man by these pitiless acts, that they may look into their hearts, see the evil of what they do, abandon all violent intentions, and seek forgiveness. In these troubled times, may the whole human family find true and lasting peace, born of the marriage of justice and mercy!

Pope Saint John Paul II
Message for World Day of Peace 2002


One thought on “no peace without justice, no justice without forgiveness

  1. Thanks, Clayton, for the reference to John Paul 2’s call to forgiveness. At the time of 9/11 I was teaching moral theology to high school students. I spoke of forgiveness. One of the students, Sarah, raised her hand and said ” I hate them (the terrorists)”. I realized it was unhelpful for me to mandate a forgiveness, indeed psychologically counterproductive. I think there is an organic process the Christian, anyone, needs to go through, analogous to the stages of grief, before they might arrive at Christian forgiveness. If this isn’t done the hatred will simply be repressed. This movement towards forgiveness can be nurtured by the witness of people who have experienced loss and have come to forgiveness. Within the scriptures we see the Jews took centuries to come to Jesus’s forgiveness. We must not be hard on ourselves if it takes time for us to forgive. Every time I see the Twin Towers being hit I feel deep resentment. An excellent example of coming to this difficult forgiveness is Corrie Ten Boom

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