CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 23 March 2019

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Respect for nature and human dignity at root of the peace process

HONG KONG (SE): “Everywhere, the way to resolve open questions must be that of diplomacy and dialogue,” Pope Francis told a gathering of diplomats accredited to the Holy See in his first address to the group on January 13 in the Vatican Apostolic Palace.

The annual address to diplomats is always a much anticipated event, as it is the closest thing that the Vatican has to a policy cum state of the nation address from the pope.

Pope Francis added that the approach of diplomacy and dialogue to international conflict is already an established path in the Church and he reiterated the call of the World War I pontiff, Pope Benedict XV, when he urged leaders of warring European nations to make the moral force of law prevail over the material force of arms.

Pope Benedict told the leaders of nations that this was necessary in order to avoid needless carnage, but at the same time required people to look beyond the superficial causes of the conflict and consider the deepest dignity of others in order to build a communion amidst disagreement.

Although he was derided, ignored and abused at the time, Pope Benedict’s plea has gained some credence in international relations, but much less in internal, ethnically-based or local conflicts.

In this context, Pope Francis said that he would be making a pilgrimage to the Holy Land this year to promote peace talks between the Israelis and the Palestinians.

He appealed on behalf of the Christians of the Middle East, saying that all they are asking for is to be made part of the social, political and cultural life of their countries, which they helped to build, and to contribute to the common good as ordinary citizens.

He couched this in the context of his primary plea for the wellbeing of families, saying that he believes that fraternity is the foundation of all peace and it is fundamentally learned within the embrace of the family.

He quoted Pope Benedict XVI as saying, “The language of the family is the language of peace.”

He also drew attention to Africa, saying that despite widespread persecution the challenge is to keep on doing good.

Pope Francis said, “As I assure you of my prayers for the victims and the many refugees forced to live in dire poverty, I express my hope that the concern of the international community will help to bring an end to violence, a return to the rule of law and guaranteed access to humanitarian aid…”

He also singled out the Korean peninsula as an area in great need of reconciliation, as he noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Seoul and the Holy See.

He spoke of Asia as having a long tradition of peaceful coexistence among various civil, ethnic and religious groups, saying that such respect needs to be encouraged, especially as currently simmering tensions are threatening what has been a long held peace both across and within borders.

He also pledged the support of the Holy See to developing the signs of hope emanating from Asia in terms of cooperation for the common good, especially in areas where growing prejudice, allegedly for religious reasons, is threatening the peace with violence.

But above and beyond that, he pointed to the widespread denial of human dignity through poverty and the lack of basic human services.

“Peace is also threatened by every denial of human dignity, firstly the lack of access to adequate nutrition. We cannot be indifferent to those who are suffering from hunger, especially children, when we think of how much food is wasted every day in many parts of the world,” he told the gathering.

At this point, he returned to his well-worn theme of what he has termed a throwaway culture, noting that unfortunately, not only food is thrown away, but often human beings themselves—simply being discarded as useless and unnecessary.

He possibly pacified a few complaining voices when he addressed the topic of abortion, but in his own manner, carefully placed it in a context of all rights of children.

“For example, it is frightful to even think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers; and children being bought and sold in that terrible form of modern slavery which is human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity,” Pope Francis said.

He said that his visit to the refugee island of Lampedusa in the Mediterranean still sticks vividly in his memory, as he appealed for those who are forced to flee famine, violence or captivity in order to seek a decent life, especially in the Horn of Africa and Latin America.

“Sadly, there is a general indifference in the face of these tragedies, which is a dramatic sign of the loss of that sense of responsibility for our brothers and sisters on which the very concept of civil society is based,” he lamented.

He then noted that he believes that the wholesale onslaught on the environment in what he called the greedy exploitation of natural resources is a grave threat to world peace.

“Even if nature is at our disposition, all too often we do not respect it or consider it a gracious gift which we must take care of and set at the service of our brothers and sisters, including future generations,” Pope Francis noted.

He called respecting the earth a vital cog in the process of forming brotherhood across national borders and among different peoples.

“I recall a popular saying,” he said. “God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature—creation—is mistreated, she never forgives!”

At this point he mentioned what are called natural disasters, giving special mention to the suffering in The Philippines and surrounding areas as a result of Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda).

He then reiterated what his predecessor, Pope Paul VI, said. “Peace is not simply an 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.”

He called this the spirit that should guide every activity of the Church throughout the world, every priest, layperson and social welfare institution in the service of the poor, the sick, the orphaned and all in need of comfort.

Pope Francis pointed out that he believes that it has been a good year for Holy See diplomacy, noting that the newly-emerged nation of the South Sudan had been included in the 180 countries with which the Holy See has diplomatic relations, in addition to the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as a special mission to the State of Palestine.

Also, added to its observer status at the United Nations, are its acquiring the role of Extra-Regional Observer in the Central American Integration System and accreditation as the first permanent observer of the Economic Community of West African States.

 

Agreements were also signed with Hungry, Chad and Capo Verde, as well as the ratification of a treaty with Equatorial Guinea at the end of 2012.

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