Vatican City, Jan 12, 2015 / 07:54 am America/Denver (CNA).
Pope Francis told Vatican diplomats that peace – which is a communal responsibility – is the only solution to global issues like war, terrorism and social problems such as unemployment and slavery.
“Today I wish to repeat a word quite dear to us: peace!” the Pope told the diplomats on Jan. 12.
He said that peace is a common theme we think about during Christmas, but cautioned that the holiday also makes us think of “another tragic reality: that of rejection,” which is visible in Herod’s killing of the infants in Bethlehem as well as in Jesus’ ultimate death on the cross.
Rejection, the pontiff observed, is an attitude that we all share, and is one which refuses to see and accept others as brothers and sisters, but rather views them as unworthy, and as persons we can bend to our own will.
“This is the mind-set which fosters that ‘throwaway culture’ which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, even God himself,” the Bishop of Rome said, explaining that this attitude “gives rise to a humanity filled with pain and constantly torn by tensions and conflicts of every sort.”
He drew attention to last month’s Taliban attack on a military school in Pakistan – which killed more than 140 people, most of whom were children – as an example, and again offered his condolences to their families.
The personal aspect of rejection is inevitably attached to the social dimension, the Pope noted, explaining that this leads to “the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death,” which is evident in last week’s attack on a Paris newspaper which killed 12 people.
“Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion,” he said, noting that all of these things stem from “a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.”
Pope Francis then pointed to the numerous conflicts happening around the world, particularly in the Ukraine, the Middle East and the African countries of Nigeria, the Central Republic and the Congo.
With conflicts in the Middle East surrounding fundamentalist terrorist activities, the Roman Pontiff said that this phenomenon “is a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God.”
“Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext,” he said, noting that a “unanimous response” is needed at the level of international law in order to bring about peace.
He urged the international community “not to remain indifferent in the face of this situation,” and expressed his closeness to the Christians and other religious and ethnic minorities who have been driven from their homes, saying that “a Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East!”
“I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.”
In addition to war and other conflicts, the pontiff also drew attention to “another horrendous crime, the crime of rape,” which is frequently used as war tactic and has both a personal and societal impact.
“This is a most grave offense against the dignity of women,” he said, noting that “sadly, even apart from situations of war, all too many women even today are victims of violence.”
Each conflict is a result of the “throwaway culture” mentality since the lives of the poor are often “crushed” by those in power, he continued. This attitude, he noted, also includes the “insidious” rejection of the elderly and sick.
Pope Francis then pointed to the more than 6,000 victims of the 2014 Ebola outbreak, which was most strongly felt in the nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. He offered his thanks to the medical personnel, religious men and women, and volunteers for their efforts in caring for the sick.
“At the same time I renew my appeal to the entire international community to provide adequate humanitarian assistance to patients and to make concerted efforts to combat the disease.”
The Bishop of Rome then referred to how there are many “hidden exiles” within each of our own societies, which include the phenomenon of youth unemployment, illegal labor and the poor working conditions of many, especially children, “who are exploited out of greed.”
“All this is contrary to human dignity and the fruit of a mentality which is centered on money, benefits and economic profit, to the detriment of our fellow man,” the Pope observed.
However, in addition to current challenges, the Pope also pointed out numerous “gifts and blessings” of the past year, which include the strong visible signs of a fruitful interreligious dialogue in his trips to both Albania and Turkey, as well as from refugees in his journey to the Holy Land.
“One example close to my heart of how dialogue can build bridges comes from the recent decision of the United States of America and Cuba to end a lack of communication which has endured for more than half a century,” he said, and encouraged nations to continue walking the path of dialogue.
The Roman Pontiff concluded his address by offering a “hope-filled” prayer for the new year, during which the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals, will be drawn up. A new Climate Change Agreement is also expected to be drafted in 2015.
“The indispensable presupposition of all these is peace, which, even more than an end to all wars, is the fruit of heartfelt conversion,” the Pope explained.
“With these sentiments, I once more offer to each of you, to your families and your peoples, my prayerful good wishes that this new year of 2015 will be one of hope and peace.”