More highlights from the Pope’s address to diplomats

January 17, 2016

In his address to the diplomatic Corps, with regard to climate change and the COP-21 agreement, the Pope said:  “This significant accord represents for the entire international community an important achievement; it reflects a powerful collective realization of the grave responsibility incumbent on individuals and nations to protect creation, to promote a “culture of care which permeates all of society”. (LS 231)  It is now essential that those commitments prove more than simply a good intention, but rather a genuine duty incumbent on all states to do whatever is needed to safeguard our beloved earth for the sake of all mankind, especially generations yet to come.”

Other highlights are as follows:

Mercy was the common thread linking my Apostolic Journeys in the course of the past year.  This was the case above all with my visit to Sarajevo, a city deeply scarred by the war in the Balkans and the capital of a country, Bosnia and Herzegovina, which is uniquely significant for Europe and the entire world.  As a crossroads of cultures, nations and religions, it is working successfully to build new bridges, to encourage those things which unite, and to see differences as opportunities for growth in respect for all.  This is possible thanks to a patient and trusting dialogue capable of embracing the values of each culture and accepting the good which comes from the experience of others.(Meeting with Authorities, Sarajevo, 6 June 2015)

I think too of my Journey to Bolivia, Ecuador and Paraguay, where I encountered peoples who have not given up in the face of difficulties, and who are facing with courage, determination and solidarity their many challenges, beginning with widespread poverty and social inequality.

In Philadelphia for the World Meeting of Families, during my Journey to Sri Lanka and to the Philippines, and more recently with the Synod of Bishops, I reaffirmed the centrality of the family, which is the first and most important school of mercy, in which we learn to see God’s loving face and to mature and develop as human beings…“Out of the family’s experience of fraternity is born solidarity in society”, which instills in us a sense of responsibility for others. (Meeting with Political, Economic and Civic Leaders, Quito, 7 July 2015)  This is possible only if, in our homes and our societies, we refuse to allow weariness and resentment to take root, but instead make way for dialogue, which is the best antidote to the widespread individualism of today’s culture.

An individualistic spirit is fertile soil for the growth of that kind of indifference towards our neighbours which leads to viewing them in purely economic terms, to a lack of concern for their humanity, and ultimately to feelings of fear and cynicism.  Are these not the attitudes we often adopt towards the poor, the marginalized and the “least” of society?  And how many of these “least” do we have in our societies!  Among them I think primarily of migrants, with their burden of hardship and suffering, as they seek daily, often in desperation, a place to live in peace and dignity.

“Be not frightened, neither be dismayed; for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go” (Jos 1:9).  This is the promise which God makes to Joshua, revealing his concern for every person, but particularly those in precarious situations such as people seeking refuge in a foreign country.  The Bible as a whole recounts the history of a humanity on the move, for mobility is part of our human nature.  Human history is made up of countless migrations, sometimes out of an awareness of the right to choose freely, and often dictated by external circumstances.

Now as then, we hear Jacob saying to his sons: “Go down and buy grain for us there, that we may live and not die” (Gen 42:2).  His is the voice of all those who flee extreme poverty, inability to feed their families or to receive medical care and education, hopeless squalor or the effects of climate change and extreme weather conditions.  Sadly, we know that hunger continues to be one of the gravest banes of our world, leading to the death of millions of children every year.  It is painful to realize, however, that often these migrants are not included in international systems of protection based on international agreements.

How can we not see in all this the effects of that “culture of waste” which endangers the human person, sacrificing men and women before the idols of profit and consumption?

It is a grievous fact that we grow so inured to such situations of poverty and need, to these tragedies affecting so many lives, that they appear “normal”.  Persons are no longer seen as a paramount value to be cared for and respected, especially when poor or disabled, or “not yet useful” – like the unborn, or “no longer needed” – like the elderly.  We have grown indifferent to all sorts of waste, starting with the waste of food, which is all the more deplorable when so many individuals and families suffer hunger and malnutrition.(General Audience, 5 June 2013)

The Holy See trusts that, amid today’s sad context of conflicts and disasters, the First World Humanitarian Summit, convened by the United Nations for May 2016, will succeed in its goal of placing the person and human dignity at the heart of every humanitarian response.  What is needed is a common commitment which can decisively turn around the culture of waste and lack of respect for human life, so that no one will feel neglected or forgotten, and that no further lives will be sacrificed due to the lack of resources and, above all, of political will.

Sadly, now as then, we hear the voice of Judah who counsels selling his own brother (cf. Gen 37:26-27).  His is the arrogance of the powerful who exploit the weak, reducing them to means for their own ends or for strategic and political schemes.  Where regular migration is impossible, migrants are often forced to turn to human traffickers or smugglers, even though they are aware that in the course of their journey they may well lose their possessions, their dignity and even their lives.  In this context I once more appeal for an end to trafficking in persons, which turns human beings, especially the weakest and most defenceless, into commodities.  The image of all those children who died at sea, victims of human callousness and harsh weather, will remain forever imprinted on our minds and hearts.  Those who survive and reach a country which accepts them bear the deep and indelible scars of these experiences, in addition to those left by the atrocities which always accompany wars and violence.

Now as then, we hear the angel say: “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you” (Mt 2:13).  His is the voice heard by many migrants who would never have left their homeland had they not been forced to.  So many disasters could have been prevented, or at least their harshest effects mitigated.  Today too, before it is too late, much could be done to end these tragedies and to build peace.  But that would mean rethinking entrenched habits and practices, beginning with issues involving the arms trade, the provision of raw materials and energy, investment, policies of financing and sustainable development, and even the grave scourge of corruption.  We all know, too, that with regard to migration there is a need for mid-term and long-term planning which is not limited to emergency responses.  Such planning should include effective assistance for integrating migrants in their receiving countries, while also promoting the development of their countries of origin through policies inspired by solidarity, yet not linking assistance to ideological strategies and practices alien or contrary to the cultures of the peoples being assisted.

Without overlooking other dramatic situations – in this regard, I think particularly of the border between Mexico and the United States of America, which I will be near when I visit Ciudad Juárez next month – my thoughts turn in a special way to Europe.  Over the past year Europe has witnessed a great wave of refugees – many of whom died in the attempt – a wave unprecedented in recent history, not even after the end of the Second World War.  Many migrants from Asia and Africa see in Europe a beacon for principles such as equality before the law and for values inherent in human nature, including the inviolable dignity and equality of every person, love of neighbour regardless of origin or affiliation, freedom of conscience and solidarity towards our fellow men and women.

In facing the issue of migrations, one cannot overlook its cultural implications, beginning with those linked to religious affiliation.  Extremism and fundamentalism find fertile soil not only in the exploitation of religion for purposes of power, but also in the vacuum of ideals and the loss of identity – including religious identity – which dramatically marks the so-called West.  This vacuum gives rise to the fear which leads to seeing the other as a threat and an enemy, to closed-mindedness and intransigence in defending preconceived notions.  The phenomenon of migration raises a serious cultural issue which necessarily demands a response.  The acceptance of migrants can thus prove a good opportunity for new understanding and broader horizons, both on the part of those accepted, who have the responsibility to respect the values, traditions and laws of the community which takes them in, and on the part of the latter, who are called to acknowledge the beneficial contribution which each immigrant can make to the whole community.  In this context, the Holy See reaffirms its commitment in the ecumenical and interreligious sectors to inaugurating a sincere and respectful dialogue which, by valuing the distinctness and identity of each individual, can foster a harmonious coexistence among all the members of society.

…the greatest challenge we face is that of overcoming indifference and working together for peace, which remains a good which must constantly be sought. (Overcome Indifference and Win Peace, Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace (8 December 2015).

For the full speech, see