by Brian Dooley THE POPE is set to launch a stinging attack on the cult of individualism and the erosion of minority rights.
In his message for the World Day of Peace, January 1, Pope John Paul will declare that the state has an obligation to foster the rights of minority groups. The text of the Pontiff's historic address has already been received by the Catholic Herald.
The speech warns that "individuals do not exist for themselves alone, but achieve their full identity in relation to others", and states that the duty to defend diversity in society "belongs not only to the state and to the groups themselves . . . (but to) individuals".
"A mind that is open and desirous of knowing better the cultural heritage of the minority groups with which it comes into contact will help to eliminate attitudes of prejudice which hinder healthy social relations", it says.
There is strong condemnation for those who deny minorities full expression of their culture. "Some minorities see their artistic and literary expressions ignored, with their festivals and celebrations given no place in public life", says the Pope.
The Pope's message, titled To Build Peace, Respect Minorities, also stresses the need for "minorities to preserve and develop their own culture", and notes that in some countries "laws have been enacted which do not recognise their right to use their own language". Although the Pope does not offer any examples of societies which are most guilty of discrimination, he clearly states that "no Christian can knowingly foster or support structures and attitudes that unjustly divide individuals and groups".
Peace Sunday was inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1967 and the traditional New Year's Day message is directed primarily at international organisations and governments, "as well as the Catholic community".
The Pope will urge governments on Sunday to legislate against discrimination, but in his message concedes the solution lies in changing attitudes.
"The translation of law into behaviour constitutes a long and slow process, especially with a view to eradicating such attitudes. This does not make the process any less urgent . . .
The state . . . can play an important role by favouring the promotion of cultural initiatives", he says.
The Pope further suggests that to ensure long-term peace societies must not only eliminate obvious discrimination but also "all barriers that divide groups".
• Since 1974 Peace Day has been celebrated in England and Wales on the fourth Sunday of January, instead of New Year's Day. This follows a decision by the bishops' conference that the day should fall in the school term. This year, Peace Sunday in England and Wales will be on January 29.