To anti corporal punishment crusader Sir Frank Peters, the most important, significant, loving and compassionate message the Pope could deliver this Christmas* is one of hope, justice, and compassion for the children of Bangladesh and elsewhere.
“A few choice words from his lips condemning corporal punishment to children could be all that’s needed to stop the horrific beatings of children in the home, schools, madrassas, and give children joy and peace,” he said.
“Given a choice of a material Christmas gift or ending corporal punishment in their life, the child would choose the latter every time.”
Remarks by His Holiness last February were interpreted by many worldwide to mean he supported corporal punishment to children and this drew Sir Frank’s ire, who has been vigorously campaigning against all forms of corporal punishment for over five years.
The Pope had said: “One time, I heard a father in a meeting with married couples say, ‘I sometimes have to smack my children a bit, but never in the face so as to not humiliate them. How beautiful! He knows the sense of dignity!” he added. “He has to punish them, but does it justly and moves on.”
Sir Frank said he wants to believe deep down that, His Holiness Pope Francis ‘made a slip of the tongue’. He said he could understand how that could happen, but there has been no retraction of his remarks and that worries him enormously.
“You or I could have said what His Holiness said and nobody would pay a scrap of attention, but coming from the mouth of the Pope is entirely different,” said Sir Frank. “He is perceived by over 1.2-billion Roman Catholics to be the spokesman for God on earth and what he says carries enormous clout, even to the point it’s impossible for him to make a mistake.”
Sir Frank has requested the Pope to speak about his perceived slip-of-tongue in his live TV/Radio Christmas Day address to the world, when the majority of Roman Catholics traditionally tune-in to hear what he has to say on world and church matters.
“To speak of world peace is a fairytale… a fantasy, it will never happen,” said Sir Frank, “but it sounds good and no doubt that will be on his topics list. While there are big corporations and individuals shamelessly making countless billions from fueling wars, they will never be world peace,” he said.
Sir Frank said he believes His Holiness Pope Francis cannot generate world peace, but he can lessen pain and the appalling and unnecessary suffering of children worldwide.
He said throughout time there have been some great, God-sent, inspirational people on earth, who have coined quotations that will live eternally.
“American president John. F. Kennedy in his inaugural address said, ‘ask not what your country can do for you’ et cetera. There was the Bangabandhu speech that inspired the birth of Bangladesh. The ‘I have a dream’ speech of Martin Luther King Jr. and these, among others, are indelibly etched in the history of mankind,” said Sir Frank.
“I would be extremely disappointed if my spiritual leader, Pope Francis, is etched in history for saying, ‘it’s okay to smack children’.”
Sir Frank said he is hopeful His Holiness will correct his perceived slip of tongue statement this Friday. “Then children of the world, Christian and non-Christian alike, can truly rejoice and have a Merry Christmas.
“Jesus taught the children through love, as his parents on earth Mary and Joseph had taught him. There was no physical or mental abuse; or corporal punishment of any description involved. To our shame 2000 years later, the lesson hasn’t been learned.
“People argue about religion… people fight for religion… people die for religion… but very few actually live by the code of their religion,” he said.
(Sir Frank Peters is a former newspaper and magazine publisher and editor, an award-winning writer, royal goodwill ambassador, humanitarian, and a human rights activist.)