VATICAN CITY — In his annual meeting with the diplomatic corps, Pope Francis spoke to ambassadors about the importance of fostering peace through the use of dialogue, diplomacy and respect for human dignity.
“Everywhere, the way to resolve open questions must be that of diplomacy and dialogue,” the Holy Father told those gathered for the Jan. 12 meeting.
Extending his greetings to the 180 ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, the Pope began his discourse by recalling the theme of his message for the World Day of Peace, “Fraternity as the Foundation and Pathway to Peace.”
Quoting his own words, he reminded the ambassadors that “fraternity is generally first learned within the family,” which is “meant to spread its love to the world,” highlighting how, in the Holy Family we encountered at Christmas, “there is room for everyone, poor and rich alike, those near and those afar.”
However, the Pope noted that although, in the words of his predecessor Benedict XVI, “the language of the family is a language of peace,” this is “sadly … often not the case.”
“As the number of broken and troubled families is on the rise, not simply because of the weakening sense of belonging so typical of today’s world, but also because of the adverse conditions in which many families are forced to live,” stated the Holy Father, there “is a need for suitable policies aimed at supporting, assisting and strengthening the family.”
Drawing attention to the fact that the elderly are often viewed “as a burden” while youth “lack clear prospects for their lives,” Pope Francis emphasized that both categories “are the hope of humanity.”
“The elderly bring with them wisdom born of experience; the young open us to the future and prevent us from becoming self-absorbed,” he reflected, adding that “it is prudent to keep the elderly from being ostracized from the life of society, so as to preserve the living memory of each people.”
“It is likewise important to invest in the young through suitable initiatives which can help them to find employment and establish homes,” the Pope added. “We must not stifle their enthusiasm.”
“Being closed and isolated always makes for a stifling, heavy atmosphere, which, sooner or later, ends up creating sadness and oppression,” Francis stressed, stating that what is needed instead is “a shared commitment to favoring a culture of encounter” which radiates “joy and being peacemakers.”
Amid the “scenes of destruction and death” of this past year caused by a “self-centeredness which gradually takes the form of envy, selfishness, competition and the thirst for power and money,” Francis noted that he has great “confidence” in the year ahead.
Turning to the ongoing conflict in Syria and the Middle East, the Pope thanked the ambassadors for their participation in his day of fasting and prayer for the region last September, and he expressed his hope that the upcoming Geneva II Conference, to be held Jan. 22, will “mark the beginning of the desired peace process.”
What is needed in order to overcome these conflicts, emphasized the Pope, is the “courage ‘to go beyond the surface of the conflict.’”
It is necessary, he continued, quoting his message for the World Day of Peace, “to consider others in their deepest dignity, so that unity will prevail over conflict, and it will be ‘possible to build communion amid disagreement.’”
Referring also to what is happening in Africa and Asia, Pope Francis stressed that “Christians are called to give witness to God’s love and mercy.”
“We must never cease to do good, even when it is difficult and demanding and when we endure acts of intolerance, if not genuine persecution,” he said, referring to ongoing violence in Nigeria and the African Republic.
Drawing attention to the “long history of peaceful coexistence” between the Republic of Korea’s “different civil, ethnic and religious groups,” the Pope affirmed that “such reciprocal respect needs to be encouraged.”
“Especially,” added Francis, “given certain troubling signs that it is weakening, particularly where growing attitudes of prejudice, for allegedly religious reasons, are tending to deprive Christians of their liberties and to jeopardize civil coexistence.”
In addition to the numerous conflicts and acts of violence threatening peace, Pope Francis emphasized that another great danger is “every denial of human dignity,” beginning with the lack of “access to adequate nutrition.”
“We cannot be indifferent to those suffering from hunger,” he said, “especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world, immersed in what I have often termed ‘the throwaway culture.’”
“Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food and dispensable objects,” the Pope went on to say, “but, often, human beings themselves, who are discarded as ‘unnecessary.’ For example, it is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.”
It is also troubling, noted the Holy Father, that children are “being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts” and are “being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity.”
Turning to the many refugees who flee their homeland due to “famine, violence and oppression,” Pope Francis observed how many are “living as fugitives or refugees in camps where they are no longer seen as persons but as nameless statistics.”
Recalling his July 2013 visit to the small island of Lampedusa to pray for the victims of the Mediterranean refugee crisis, the Pope explained that, often, “there is a general indifference in the face of these tragedies.”
This, he added, “is a dramatic sign of the loss of that ‘sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters’ on which every civil society is based.”
One final threat to peace in our world, explained the Pope, is “the greedy exploitation of environmental resources.”
“Even if ‘nature is at our disposition,’ all too often, we do not ‘respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must care for and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations,’” he said, again quoting his message for the World Day of Peace.
Concluding his remarks, the Pope quoted his predecessor Pope Paul VI, stressing that “peace ‘is not simply the absence of warfare, based on a precarious balance of power.’”
“It is fashioned by efforts directed day after day towards the establishment of an order willed by God, with a more perfect justice among men and women.”