The Pope has used his 2013 New Message to members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See to call on governments to fight corruption and social inequalities and promote global peace through interreligious dialogue.
“At the beginning of each New Year, I am happy to receive you, the distinguished Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, and to offer you my greetings and personal good wishes, which I extend to all the beloved nations which you represent, together with the assurance of my constant thoughts and prayers,” said Pope Benedict XVI in his address to diplomats at the Vatican today.
He urged governments to pursue education as a path to peacemaking and attacked the unbridled pursuit of profit over labour interests as the chief cause of global instability.
“The current economic and financial crisis, among other things, has also made this clear. The crisis developed because profit was all too often made absolute, to the detriment of labour, and because of unrestrained ventures in the financial areas of the economy, rather than attending to the real economy,” he said.
“There is a need, then, to rediscover the meaning of work and proportionate profit. To that end, it would be well to teach people how to resist the temptations of particular and short-term interests, and to look instead to the common good.”
He urged governments to urgently train leaders who will one day guide national and international public institutions. Investment in education in Africa, Asia and Latin America would help to overcome poverty and disease, and to create legal systems, which are equitable and respectful of human dignity.
“Certainly, if justice is to be achieved, good economic models, however necessary, are not sufficient. Justice is achieved only when people are just!” he said.
“Consequently, building peace means training individuals to fight corruption, criminal activity, the production and trade in narcotics, as well as abstaining from divisions and tensions which threaten to exhaust society, hindering development and peaceful coexistence.
From its origins, he said, the Church is oriented kat’holon, meaning it embraces the whole universe. “This ‘orientation’ does not represent an intrusion in the life of the different societies, but serves rather to illumine the right conscience of their citizens, encouraging them to work for the good of each person and for the progress of the human race.”
“I am also pleased to mention the valued work accomplished by the Papal Representatives in constant dialogue with your Governments.”
He regretted that “these days, we are sometimes led to think that truth, justice and peace are utopian ideals, and mutually exclusive. To know the truth seems impossible, and efforts to affirm it appear often to lead to violence.”
Yet from the Christian point of view, the glorification of God and human peace on earth are closely linked, with the result that peace is not simply the fruit of human effort, but a participation in the very love of God.
“The consequences of forgetfulness of God cannot be separated from those resulting from ignorance of his true countenance, the root of a baneful religious fanaticism which, again in 2012, reaped victims in some countries represented here. As I have often observed, this is a falsification of religion itself, since religion aims instead at reconciling men and women with God, at illuminating and purifying consciences, and at making it clear that each human being is the image of the Creator.”
Civil and political authorities before all others have a grave responsibility to work for peace. “They are the first called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family, beginning with that privileged region in God’s plan, the Middle East.”
“I think first and foremost of Syria, torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population. I renew my appeal for a ceasefire and the inauguration as quickly as possible of a constructive dialogue aimed at putting an end to a conflict which will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins.”
On the Palestine-Israel conflict, the Pope called on the two sides to commit to a peaceful coexistence within the framework of two sovereign states, where respect for justice and the legitimate aspirations of the two peoples will be guaranteed.
“Jerusalem, become what your name signifies! A city of peace and not of division; a prophecy of the Kingdom of God and not a byword for instability and opposition!”
He also emphasized that dialogue was critical in North Africa where he said cooperation between all the members of society was of primary concern as the region seeks ways to guaranteed full citizenship and liberty for their people.
“Turning to sub-Saharan Africa, I encourage the efforts being made to build peace, especially in those places where the wounds of war remain open and where their grave humanitarian consequences are being felt.”
He particularly singled out the Horn of Africa, and the East of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where new of acts of violence have erupted, forcing many people to abandon their homes, families and surroundings.
The Pope sharply condemned religious violence in Nigeria where regular terrorist attacks have been targeted at Christians. “…Hatred (is) intended to turn temples of prayer and peace into places of fear and division. I was deeply saddened to learn that, even in the days when we celebrated Christmas, some Christians were barbarously put to death.”
“The building of peace always comes about by the protection of human beings and their fundamental rights. This task, even if carried out in many ways and with varying degrees of intensity, challenges all countries and must constantly be inspired by the transcendent dignity of the human person and the principles inscribed in human nature.”
The Pontiff also spoke passionately to promote the entrenched pro-life Catholic values, criticizing those countries where abortion and assisted killings are legalized.
“I must note with dismay that, in various countries, even those of Christian tradition, efforts are being made to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalizes abortion. Direct abortion is gravely contrary to the moral law,” the Pope said.
“In affirming this, the Catholic Church is not lacking in understanding and mercy, also towards the mother involved. Rather, it is a question of being vigilant lest the law unjustly alter the balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both.”
He singled out western countries as frequently engendering ambiguities about the meaning of human rights and their corresponding duties.
“Rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential, no longer open to encounter with God and with others, and absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs.”
To be authentic, the Vatican stressed, the defence of rights must instead consider human beings integrally, in their personal and communitarian dimensions.
This author represented H.E Lt.Col Bizwayo Nkunika the Zambia’s High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, and Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary to the Holy See.
By Amos Chanda
Vatican City, (Rome), Monday, January 7, 2013