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Gerard O’ConnellJanuary 12, 2015
Ambassadors from 180 countries exchange New Year's greetings with pope on Jan. 12

Hours before departing for Asia, to visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines, Francis made a heartfelt appeal for peace in the world as conflicts spread and tensions escalate in many countries. 

He called for an end to conflicts in the Middle East, especially in Syria and Iraq, and for peaceful and negotiated solutions to the conflicts in the Ukraine, the Holy Land, Korea, South Sudan. He appealed too for an end to the kidnappings of young girls and the killings in Nigeria, as well as for peace in the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Libya. 

He denounced “the horrendous crime, the crime of the rape of women” in war and situations of conflict. “This is a most grave offense against the dignity of women, who are not only violated in body but also in spirit, resulting in a trauma hard to erase and with effects on society as well. Sadly, even apart from situations of war, all too many women even today are victims of violence,” he stated.

He “noted with satisfaction” the US decision to close the Guantanamo detention center and thanked “from my heart” the “generous willingness” of several countries to receive the detainees.”

He expressed the fervent hope for the drafting of a new Climate Change Agreement, saying, “This is urgent!” 

He prayed for the “the drawing up of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals”

He said all this and much more in his speech at the traditional New Year’s exchange of greeting between the Pope and the Ambassadors from some 180 states that have full diplomatic relations with the Holy See.

Francis greeted them in the Vatican’s magnificent Sala Regia on Monday morning, January 12, and delivered a 30 minute speech in Italian that zoned in on “the never-ending spread of conflicts” that are dehumanizing the world today and creating what he said resembles “a true world war fought piecemeal.”

He recalled how the Christmas crib, depicting the birth of the Son of God, conveys a message of peace, but also one of rejection. “Rejection,” he said, “is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbor not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will. This is the mindset which fosters that "throwaway culture" which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, even God himself. It gives rise to a humanity filled with pain and constantly torn by tensions and conflicts of every sort.”

We have seen this in Pakistan, “where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality,” and we have seen it last week in Paris, he said. He noted that we also witness this in other parts of the world today as conflicts spread and tensions rise.

He prayed that the parties in conflict in the Ukraine, “which has become a dramatic theatre of combat,” may “through dialogue” respond to the efforts being made to end the hostilities and resolve the present crisis.

He said he “constantly” prays for peace in “the beloved land of Jesus,” and expressed “the confident hope” that negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians “will once more resume, for the sake of ending violence and reaching a solution”—a two state solution—which will enable both peoples “to live at last in peace within clearly established and internationally recognized borders.”

He recalled that the Middle East “is tragically embroiled in other conflicts which have lasted far too long, with chilling repercussions, due also to the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and in Iraq.” This phenomenon is “a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God,” because “religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext.”

He pleaded for a “unanimous response” from the international community and governments to counteract “such unjust aggression, which also strikes Christians and other ethnic and religious groups in the region,” a response “within the framework of international law,” that “ can end the spread of acts of violence, restore harmony and heal the deep wounds which the ongoing conflicts have caused.”

He again expressed his “personal closeness” to all the Christian communities of the Middle East and said “A Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East.” He appealed to the international community not to remain indifferent in the face of this situation” and expressed the hope—as he had done during his visit to Turkey— “that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.”

He praised those helping the victims of Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea—where over 6,000 people have died from this epidemic, and appealed to the international community to provide humanitarian assistance.

He also drew the attention of the international community and governments worldwide to the plight of migrants, refugees and displaced persons who also risk being discarded. In this context he praised Turkey and Jordan for their great generosity in this field.

Pope Francis highlighted “the alarming fact” that, particularly in the Americas, “many immigrants are unaccompanied children” who are “all the more at risk and in need of greater care, attention and protection” from governments.

He concluded by noting several positive developments over the past year, including one that was “close to my heart”—the decision of the U.S. and Cuba “to end a lack of communication which has endured for more than half a century, and to initiate a rapprochement for the benefit of their respective citizens.” He also commended positive political developments in Burkina Faso, and noted “with pleasure” that last March an agreement was signed to end long years of tension in the Philippines. 

He encouraged peace in Colombia and Venezuela, and hoped that “a definitive agreement may soon be reached between Iran and the 5+1 Group regarding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” He also expressed the hope “for a resumption of dialogue between the two Koreas.”

The ambassadors applauded warmly when he finished speaking. He then greeted each of them individually.  

Here’s the link to the full text of the Pope’s speech (in English): http://www.news.va/en/news/full-text-of-pope-francis-address-to-the-diplomati

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