As is the custom every New Year, Pope John Paul II welcomed members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See and evaluated the world situation. This year his main concern again was peace and the menaces that threaten it.
The Holy Father looked at the lights and shadows of the world scene, saying that "the celebration of Christmas has just reminded us of God's tenderness for mankind, shown in Jesus, and has echoed once again the ever new message from Bethlehem: 'Peace on earth to the People whom God loves'”.
“This message reaches us this year while yet many peoples experience the consequences of armed struggles, suffer poverty, are victims of glaring injustices and pandemics difficult to overcome," he said.
The Pope reflected on the Middle East crisis, Iraq, Africa and terrorism. He said that “what matters today is that the international community help the Iraqis, freed from a regime which oppressed them, so that they might be in shape to take up the reins of their country, to consolidate its sovereignty, to democratically determine a political and economic system in conformity with their aspirations and that Iraq will become a credible partner in the international community.”
He also said that “the Israeli-Palestinian problem continues to be a factor of permanent destabilization for the entire region. The choice of arms, recourse on the one hand to terrorism and on the other to reprisals, humiliating one's adversary, and hateful propaganda, all of these lead nowhere. Only respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides, a return to the negotiating table and the concrete commitment of the international community are capable of leading to the start of a solution."
Speaking of Africa, the Pope paid a very special homage to Archbishop Michael Courtney, Apostolic Nuncio in Burundi, who was recently assassinated. “As all nuncios and all diplomats he wished above all to serve the cause of peace and dialogue, I salute his courage and his concern for supporting the Burundian people in their march towards peace. I also wish to honor the memory of Sergio Veira de Mello, the U.N.'s special representative in Iraq, killed during the course of his mission," he said.
At the same time, he condemned international terrorism “which, in sowing fear, hatred and fanaticism, dishonors all the causes it pretends to serve.” “Here I simply wish to say that every civilization worthy of this name presupposes the categorical refusal of relations of violence," he added.
"When one believes that every human person has received from the Creator a unique dignity, that each of us is the subject of inalienable rights and freedoms, that to serve the other person is to make humanity greater, one can easily understand that capital that the communities of believers represent in the building of a more peaceful and peace-loving world," he said.
"Everywhere where peace is in doubt, there are Christians to attest in words and deeds that peace is possible. And this is, as you well know, the meaning of the Holy See's interventions in international debates," the Pope concluded.