CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Saturday, 13 January 2018

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Disarmament and right to life keys to world peace

VATICAN (CNS): A culture of peace “calls for unremitting efforts in favour of disarmament and the reduction of recourse to the use of armed force in the handling of international affairs,” Pope Francis said in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican on January 8. 
 
Dedicating his speech to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 70th anniversary of which will be celebrated in December, the pope noted that it was an attempt to help the world’s nations base their relations on “truth, justice, willing cooperation and freedom” by upholding the fundamental rights of all people. 
 
The pope called for nonviolent solutions to conflict and difficulties to be found because everyone has a right to life, liberty and personal security.
 
He said that the foundation of freedom, justice and world peace is built on recognising and respecting these rights.
 
Given the urgent need for dialogue and diplomacy and for an end to weapons stockpiling, he called for “a serene and wide-ranging debate on the subject, one that avoids polarising the international community on such a sensitive issue.”
 
However the pope warned of a movement to create new rights that often conflict with each other and are at odds with the traditional values and cultures of many countries, while neglecting real needs that must be faced.
 
“There is a risk that, in the very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological colonisation by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer and the most vulnerable,” he told the gathered diplomats.
 
Pope Francis lamented that seven decades on from the adoption of the human rights declaration by the United Nations, “It is painful to see how many fundamental rights continue to be violated today. First among all of these is the right of every human person to life, liberty and personal security.”
 
War, violence and abortion all infringe on these rights, he said, adding that not only are innocent unborn children discarded because they are “ill or malformed, or as a result of the selfishness of adults,” but the elderly are often cast aside especially when they are infirm.
 
He said the right to life entails working for peace because “without peace, integral human development becomes unattainable.” 
 
Pope Francis added that the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons last year showed how the desire for peace is alive in the world and noted, “The proliferation of weapons clearly aggravates situations of conflict and entails enormous human and material costs that undermine development and the search for lasting peace.”
 
He echoed the encyclical of Pope John XXIII, Peace on Earth (Pacem in Terris), when he called for armaments stockpiles to be reduced and nuclear weapons to be  banned, given the risk that a conflagration could be sparked by accident. 
 
He therefore stressed the importance of supporting “every effort at dialogue on the Korean peninsula, in order to find new ways of overcoming the current disputes, increasing mutual trust and ensuring a peaceful future for the Korean people and the entire world.”
 
Touching on the Holy Land and the tensions arising in the wake of the move by the president of the United States of America, Donald Trump, to recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the pope stressed that fostering dialogue is also of primary importance for Israelis and Palestinians.
 
Pope Francis reiterated the Vatican’s long-standing position that any policy change in the Holy Land must “be carefully weighed so as to avoid exacerbating hostilities” and should respect the “the status quo of Jerusalem, a city sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims.”
 
He said that after 70 years of confrontation, the urgency to arrive at “a political solution that allows the presence in the region of two independent states within internationally recognised borders” is even greater.  
 
The pope said, “A willingness to engage in dialogue and to resume negotiations remains the clearest way to achieve at last a peaceful coexistence between the two peoples.”
 
Pope Francis called for support of peace initiatives aimed at helping Syria, saying, “The time for rebuilding has now come.” He stressed the need to rebuild hearts and “the fabric of mutual trust, which is the essential prerequisite for the flourishing of any society” and to promote 
 
legal, political and security conditions for each citizen and protect all religious minorities, including Christians.
 
“The right to freedom of thought, conscience and of religion, including the freedom to change religion,” must be upheld around the globe, the pope said. He cautioned that religious freedom is often disregarded and religion sometimes becomes “an occasion for the ideological justification of new forms of extremism, or a pretext for the social marginalisation of believers, if not their downright persecution.” 
 
Pope Francis then turned his attention to the daily reality of families, urging countries to support the bedrock of all stable, creative societies: “that faithful and indissoluble communion of love that joins man and woman” in marriage.
 
He said it is “urgent that genuine policies be adopted to support the family on which the future and the development of states depend.”
 
The pope also warned against talking about migrants and migration “only for the sake of stirring up primal fears” and pointed out that the movement of peoples has always existed and the freedom of movement—to leave one’s homeland and to return—is a fundamental human right.
 
He said to leave behind the old rhetoric and begin with the understating that “are dealing, above all, with persons.” 
 
Pope Frances did not fail to address the environment and warned that  human responsibility must not be downplayed. 
 
“Climate change, with the global rise in temperatures and their devastating effects, are also a consequence of human activity,” he said.
 
People must work together—including upholding commitments agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Accord—and leave “to coming generations a more beautiful and livable world,” the pope said.

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