In his address to the diplomats representing 183 States accredited to the Holy See, Francis stressed the need to tackle issues such as vaccines for all and openness to those who are forced to leave their country, as well as the main crisis hotspots, from Syria and Afghanistan to the Ukraine and Myanmar.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis addressed the diplomats representing 183 countries accredited to the Holy See (plus the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta) during the traditional exchange of greetings that mark the start of the new year.
In his long speech, the pontiff said that dialogue and fraternity are "essential” to overcome the multiple crises that humanity is currently facing, most notably the pandemic, with its economic and social consequences, the climate emergency and the conflicts between states.
Francis stressed the need to tackle issues such as vaccines for all and openness to those who are forced to leave their country, plus the main crisis hotspots, from Syria and Afghanistan to Ukraine and Myanmar.
However, he made no reference to the ongoing crackdown in Hong Kong nor to China’s actions against religion, omissions in all probability due to the secret agreement between the Holy See and China.
Notwithstanding such silence, Francis' examination of the international situation started with the pandemic, which “continues to cause social isolation and to take lives.”
The health emergency calls for a response at the individual level since “Health care is a moral obligation”, at a political level to implement “measures of prevention and immunization” in favour of people and communities, and at an international level, “so that the entire world population can have equal access to essential medical care and vaccines.” To achieve this goal, Francis wants international agencies to “adapt their legal instruments lest monopolistic rules constitute further obstacles to production”.
Speaking about his visits in 2021, the Pope singled out his stay on Lesbos (Lesvos) Island and his meeting with migrants. “Before those faces, we cannot be indifferent or hide behind walls and barbed wires under the pretext of defending security or a style of life. Consequently, I thank all those individuals and governments working to ensure that migrants are welcomed and protected.”
The pontiff thanked again Italy for its actions, and called on the European Union “to adopt a coherent and comprehensive system for coordinating policies on migration and asylum, with a view to sharing responsibility for the reception of migrants”. [. . .] Sadly, we must also note that migrants are themselves often turned into a weapon of political blackmail, becoming a sort of ‘bargaining commodity’ that deprives them of their dignity.”
Given the current international situation, he noted a “crisis of trust” undermining multilateralism. “Important resolutions, declarations and decisions are frequently made without a genuine process of negotiation in which all countries have a say. This imbalance, now dramatically evident, has generated disaffection towards international agencies on the part of many states; it also weakens the multilateral system as a whole, with the result that it becomes less and less effective in confronting global challenges.”
Speaking about the protection of rights, Francis mentioned “in particular the right to life, from conception to its natural end, and the right to religious freedom.”
Looking at various international crises, he said that he hoped to see Lebanon pursue “necessary reforms” with “the support of the international community”. Likewise, always in the Mideast region, Syria too needs “Political and constitutional reforms [. . .] for the country to be reborn, but the imposition of sanctions should not strike directly at everyday life, in order to provide a glimmer of hope to the general populace, increasingly caught in the grip of poverty.”
The same goes for “the conflict in Yemen, a human tragedy that has gone on for years, silently,” not to mention the lack of progress in “the peace process between Israel and Palestine.”
Another topic close to the pontiff’s heart is “the urgent need to care for our common home” and the Paris Accord on climate. Here his thoughts turned to “the Philippines, struck in these last weeks by a devastating typhoon, and of other nations in the Pacific, made vulnerable by the negative effects of climate change”.
“Other sources of concern are the institutional tensions in Libya, the episodes of violence by international terrorism in the Sahel region, and the internal conflicts in Sudan, South Sudan and Ethiopia, where there is need ‘to find once again the path of reconciliation and peace through a forthright encounter’.”
“Reciprocal trust and readiness to engage in calm discussion should also inspire all parties at stake, so that acceptable and lasting solutions can be found in Ukraine and in the southern Caucasus, and the outbreak of new crises can be avoided in the Balkans, primarily in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
“Dialogue and fraternity are all the more urgently needed for dealing wisely and effectively with the crisis which for almost a year now has affected Myanmar; its streets, once places of encounter, are now the scene of fighting that does not spare even houses of prayer.
“Naturally, these conflicts are exacerbated by the abundance of weapons on hand and the unscrupulousness of those who make every effort to supply them. At times, we deceive ourselves into thinking that these weapons serve to dissuade potential aggressors. History and, sadly, even daily news reports, make it clear that this is not the case.”
Nuclear weapons are another source of grave concern for Francis, for whom “possession of them is immoral”. On a more positive note, he said that the restart of talks over the Iran nuclear accord was an “important” step.
The last two issues Francis touched were education and work. in the first case, he mentioned his message for the World Day of Peace.
“Education is in fact the primary vehicle of integral human development, for it makes individuals free and responsible. [. . .] It is an outstanding expression of dialogue, for no true education can lack a dialogical structure. Education likewise gives rise to culture and builds bridges of encounter between peoples.”
Work too is “an indispensable factor in building and keeping peace.” The pandemic has sorely tested the world economy. “This has further highlighted persistent inequalities in various social and economic sectors. Here we can include access to clean water, food, education and medical care. The number of people falling under the category of extreme poverty has shown a marked increase.”
“Here too, greater cooperation is needed among all actors on the local, national, regional and global levels, especially in the short term, given the challenges posed by the desired ecological conversion. The coming years will be a time of opportunity for developing new services and enterprises, adapting existing ones, increasing access to dignified work and devising new means of ensuring respect for human rights and adequate levels of remuneration and social protection.”
Last but not least, Francis said that, “We should be unafraid, then, to make room for peace in our lives by cultivating dialogue and fraternity among one another. The gift of peace is ‘contagious’; it radiates from the hearts of those who long for it and aspire to share it, and spreads throughout the whole world.” (FP)