Pope Francis invited the diplomats accredited to the Holy See to join him in fighting both material and spiritual poverty, which both contribute to the lack of peace in the world.
“Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up,” Pope Francis said March 22.
The Pope met this morning in the Regia Hall of the Apostolic Palace with representatives from the more than 180 countries, sovereign orders and international organizations that have formal relations with the Vatican.
After a message of welcome and thanks from Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, the dean of the diplomatic corps, Pope Francis offered his thoughts on the meeting and the Church’s engagement with the world.
This is “a simple yet deeply felt ceremony that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires,” he said.
He also highlighted some of the reasons why he chose the name Francis, including his love and care for the poor, work that he noted Christians are engaged in throughout the world.
“But there is another form of poverty!” he told the diplomats.
“It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously.
“It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the ‘tyranny of relativism,’ which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples,” he said.
The second reason that he chose Francis, the Pope recalled, is that the saint worked to build peace.
“But there is no true peace without truth!” he stressed.
“There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.”
Pope Francis noted that one of his titles is “pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people.”
“My own origins,” he explained, “impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me.”
And the growing interconnectedness and interdependence of the world makes the need for “real spaces of authentic fraternity” more important as well, he said.
Pope Francis underscored that building real brotherhood requires the contributions of faith, since it is “not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God.”
“But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people,” he added.
For this reason, the Pope told the ambassadors it is “important to intensify dialogue among the various religions” and that he is “thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam” and “non-believers.”
Pope Francis acknowledged that “fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges” will be “difficult if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours,” which involves both people and the environment.
“Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment,” he said.
After delivering his address, Pope Francis individually greeted the diplomats, some of whom were accompanied by their wives.
On Saturday, Pope Francis will take a helicopter to meet with Benedict XVI at Castel Gandolfo around noon. His first Holy Week as Pope will begin the following day with the celebration of Palm Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica.