Calling indifference "a menace to the human family," Francis noted that the attitude takes three forms: indifference to God, to our neighbor and to creation.
Indifference toward God, he noted, "transcends the purely private sphere and affects the public and social sphere."
"Disregard and the denial of God, which lead man to acknowledge no norm above himself and himself alone, have produced untold cruelty and violence," he said, while indifference toward one's neighbor is expressed in a general disinterest and a lack of engagement.
On an institutional level, indifference to the dignity, rights and freedom of others is part of a culture formed by "the pursuit of profit and hedonism," and can foster and even justify actions and policies which threaten peace, Pope Francis said.
Rather than ensuring that the basic rights and needs of others are preserved, economic and political projects frequently pursue power instead, he observed.
When people see their basic rights, such as food, water, health care and employment denied, "they are tempted to obtain them by force."
Francis stressed that indifference is ultimately overcome by personal conversion, and pointed to the example of Jesus, who took on flesh and showed solidarity with humanity.
Jesus shows us how to be invested in others, no matter how busy we may be, he said, cautioning that the attitude of indifference often seeks to excuse itself with tasks to complete or by "hiding behind hostilities and prejudices which keep us apart."
"Mercy is the heart of God," he said, explaining that how we love and care for others is "the yardstick" by which God will judge our lives.
He emphasized the importance of the Church in being a witness to God's mercy in both her language and her gestures, so that people would be inspired to return to God.
To build solidarity, the Pope said, is the responsibility of everyone, beginning with families and teachers. He also said those involved in the field of communication have a special role to play, adding that their role must "serve the truth, and not particular interests."
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Communicators, particularly the media, must also "be mindful that the way in which information is obtained and made public should always be legally and morally admissible," he said.
The statement is a likely reference to the current trial underway for the "Vatileaks 2" scandal, in which two journalists have been accused of exerting "pressure" on former members of a Vatican commission to obtain confidential documents on Vatican finances, and then publish books on the information.
Francis concluded his message by acknowledging the many individuals and organizations, journalists and photographers included, who are committed caring for the poor, injured and sick, despite often dangerous conditions.
In particular, he offered thanks to all individuals, families, parishes, religious communities and monasteries who responded to his Sept. 6 appeal to welcome a family of refugees.
In the spirit of the Jubilee of Mercy, Pope Francis called on civil society to make "courageous gestures of concern" for the most vulnerable, particularly prisoners, migrants, the sick and the unemployed.
He specifically asked that the living conditions for prisoners be improved, and urged leaders to keep in mind that "penal sanctions have the aim of rehabilitation," whereas national laws "should consider the possibility of other establishing penalties than incarceration."