Pope to diplomats: Break bad habits of war, injustice

IMAGE: CNS/Reuters

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — At the start of a new year, Pope
Francis laid out a laundry list of suggested resolutions for religious and
political leaders for making a joint commitment toward building peace.

No conflict exists that is “a habit impossible to
break,” the pope said, but he underlined that kicking such a habit
requires greater efforts to rectify social injustice, protect religious
freedom, jump-start peace talks, end the arms trade and cooperate in responding
to climate change and the immigration and refugee crises.

In a 45-minute speech Jan. 9 to diplomats accredited to
the Vatican, the pope underlined what he saw as the real “enemies of
peace” and the best responses that could be made by today’s religious and
political leaders.

“One enemy of peace,” he said, is seeing the
human person as a means to an end, which “opens the way to the spread of
injustice, social inequality and corruption.”

The waste, “greedy exploitation” and
inequitable distribution of the world’s resources provoke conflict, he said,
and human trafficking, especially the abuse and exploitation of children,
cannot be overlooked.

Another enemy of peace, the pope said, are ideologies
that exploit “social unrest in order to foment contempt and hate” and
target others as enemies to be eliminated.

“Under the guise of promising great benefits, (such
ideologies) instead leave a trail of poverty, division, social tensions,
suffering and, not infrequently, death,” he said.

What peace requires, he said, is “a vision of human
beings capable of promoting an integral development respectful of their
transcendent dignity” as well as the courage and commitment to seek to
build peace together every day.

Religions are “called to promote peace,” he
said, appealing to “all religious authorities to join in reaffirming
unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name.”

“The fundamentalist-inspired terrorism” that
has been killing so many innocent people the past year is “a homicidal
madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death in a play for
domination and power.”

Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of deep
“spiritual poverty” that does not connect a pious fear of God with
the mandate to love one’s neighbor. Often it also is linked to deep social
poverty, which demands action including on the part of government leaders.

Political leaders must guarantee “in the public
forum the right to religious freedom” and recognize the positive
contribution religious values make in society, he said. They must promote
social policies aimed at fighting poverty and promoting the family as well as
invest heavily in education and culture so as to eliminate the sort of
“terrain” that spreads fundamentalism.

Christians, whose divisions “have endured too
long,” also must heal past wounds and journey forward together with common
goals since many of those conflicts have threatened social harmony and peace,
the pope said.

Peace, he said, entails greater justice and mercy in the
world, especially toward foreigners, migrants and refugees.

“A common commitment is needed, one focused on
offering them a dignified welcome,” he said. It means recognizing people
have a right to emigrate and take up a new residence without feeling their
security and cultural identity are being threatened. Immigrants, however, also
must respect local laws and cultures, he added.

Handling today’s waves of migration demands global
responsibility and cooperation so that the “burden of humanitarian
assistance” is not left to just a few nations at enormous cost and

Peace also demands an end to the “deplorable arms trade”
and a ban on nuclear weapons, he said. Easy access to firearms “not only
aggravates various conflicts, but also generates a widespread sense of
insecurity and fear.”

He called on the world community to do everything to
encourage “serious negotiations” for an end to the war in Syria, the
protection of civilians and delivery of the aid needed to address the
“genuine human catastrophe” unfolding there.

He urgently appealed for the resumption of dialogue
between Israelis and Palestinians in order to guarantee “the peaceful
coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders.”

“No conflict can become a habit impossible to
break,” he said, underlining the urgent need for peace in the whole Middle

The pope praised the church’s efforts — inspired by
“mercy and solidarity” — to avert conflict through negotiated
solutions. He thanked the many individuals who followed this path of actively
working for peace, resulting in the rapprochement between Cuba and the United
States, and the end to conflict in Colombia.

Lastly, peace also requires a common commitment to care
for creation, he said.

Pope Francis said he hoped that after the recent Paris
Agreement, there would be increased cooperation by everyone in response to
climate change. Because, he said, “the earth is our common home and we
need to realize that the choices of each have consequences for all.”

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Editors: The pope’s speech in English is online at:

The pope’s speech in Spanish is online at:

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