An annual occurrence, the Pope's speech to diplomats is one of the most important that he gives at the beginning of the year just begun, and sets the Holy See's diplomatic tone for the rest of the year.
In his lengthy speech, Francis pointed to several important agreements of 2015, in particular to two fiscal agreements reached with Italy and the United States, as well as the Holy See's agreement with the State of Palestine, which recently went into effect.
He then recapped his five apostolic voyages to Sri Lanka and the Philippines; Bosnia and Herzegovina; his tour of South America, which took him to Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay; Cuba and the United States, and his recent visit to Africa.
Family was also a major theme for 2015, he noted, adding that it is "the first and most important school of mercy, in which we learn to see God's loving face and to mature and develop as human beings."
However, he warned that the family is being "threatened by growing efforts on the part of some to redefine the very institution of marriage by relativism, by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life."
Today there is "a widespread fear of the definitive commitment demanded by the family," he said, explaining that and that those who pay the price "are the young, who are often vulnerable and uncertain, and the elderly, who end up being neglected and abandoned."
Francis also cautioned the diplomats of developing an individualistic attitude, which he said "is fertile soil for the growth of that kind of indifference towards our neighbors which leads to viewing them in purely economic terms."
The lack of concern for their humanity, he said, ultimately leads to feelings of "fear and cynicism," and noted that this is the attitude frequently adopted toward society's poor and marginalized populations.
A prime example of these persons are migrants, who "with their burden of hardship and suffering" daily search for a place to live in peace and dignity, "often in desperation," he said.
Regarding the "grave crisis of migration" the world is currently facing, Francis noted that in 2015 it most heavily impacted Europe, as well as certain regions of Asia and North and Central America.
He turned to the Bible, explaining that the issue of migration is nothing new, but is in fact a key element throughout all of scripture. The Bible as a whole, he said, recounts the history "of a humanity on the move, for mobility is part of our human nature."
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"Human history is made up of countless migrations, sometimes out of an awareness of the right to choose freely, and often dictated by external circumstances," he observed.
The Pope then decried "the arrogance of the powerful" who exploit the weak, forced to leave their homes, "reducing them to means for their own ends or for strategic and political schemes."
"Where regular migration is impossible, migrants are often forced to turn to human traffickers or smugglers, even though they are aware that in the course of their journey they may well lose their possessions, their dignity and even their lives," he lamented.
Francis again repeated his frequent appeal for an end to human trafficking, saying that "the image of all those children who died at sea, victims of human callousness and harsh weather, will remain forever imprinted on our minds and hearts."
"Those who survive and reach a country which accepts them bear the deep and indelible scars of these experiences, in addition to those left by the atrocities which always accompany wars and violence."
Among these people, he noted, are many Christians abandoned their homelands by the thousands over the past few years, despite the fact that they have been there since the earliest days of Christianity.