Pope to diplomats: World peace depends on right to life, disarmament

IMAGE: CNS/Paul Haring

By Carol Glatz

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Because everyone has a right to life, liberty and personal
security, nations must find nonviolent solutions to conflict and difficulties, Pope Francis said.

A culture of peace “calls for unremitting efforts in
favor of disarmament and the reduction of recourse to the use of armed force in
the handling of international affairs,” he said Jan. 8 in his annual
address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican.

Given the urgent need to favor dialogue and diplomacy in
conflict resolution and to end the stockpiling of weapons, “I would
therefore like to encourage a serene and wide-ranging debate on the subject,
one that avoids polarizing the international community on such a sensitive
issue,” the pope said.

At the start of a new year, the pope dedicated his speech to the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which will celebrate the 70th anniversary of its adoption
by the U.N. General Assembly in December.

The declaration
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 human beings, he said. The very foundation of freedom, justice
and world peace, he said, quoting the document, is built on recognizing and
respecting these rights.

However, in his nearly 50-minute speech to the diplomats,
the pope cautioned that there has been a movement to create “new
rights” that often not only conflict with each other, but can be at odds
with the traditional values and cultures of many countries, while neglecting
the real needs they have to face.

“Somewhat paradoxically, there is a risk that, in the
very name of human rights, we will see the rise of modern forms of ideological
colonization by the stronger and the wealthier, to the detriment of the poorer
and the most vulnerable,” he said.

decades after the creation of the universal declaration, Pope Francis
said, “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

Not only are innocent unborn children discarded because they
are “ill or malformed, or as a result of the selfishness of adults,”
the elderly are often cast aside especially when they are infirm, he said.

Ultimately, the right to life entails working for peace, he
said, because “without peace, integral human development becomes

Integral development, in fact, is intertwined with the need
for disarmament, he said. “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.”

The adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear
Weapons last year shows how the desire for peace continues to be alive in the
world, he said.

stockpiles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be
reduced” and “nuclear weapons must be banned,” particularly given
the risk that a nuclear conflagration could be started by accident, Pope
Francis said, quoting St. John XXIII’s encyclical on peace, “Pacem in

“In this regard, it is of paramount importance to
support 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,” Pope Francis

Fostering dialogue is also of primary importance for
Israelis and Palestinians “in the wake of the tensions of recent
weeks,” he said, apparently
referring to demonstrations that took place after U.S. President Donald Trump
announced he was recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. Pope Francis had
said such a move would further destabilize the Middle East.

In his
speech to diplomats, the pope repeated the Vatican’s longstanding 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.”

“Seventy years of confrontation make more urgent than
ever the need for a political solution that allows the presence in the region
of two independent states within internationally recognized borders,” the
pope said. “Despite the difficulties, a willingness to engage in dialogue
and to resume negotiations remains the clearest way to achieving at last a
peaceful coexistence between the two peoples.”

In a list of world conflicts of concern, the pope also
pointed to the need to support “the various peace initiatives aimed at
helping Syria.”

“The time for rebuilding has now come,” he said,
which includes, not just rebuilding destroyed cities, but rebuilding hearts and
“the fabric of mutual trust, which is the essential prerequisite for the
flourishing of any society.”

“There is a need, then, to promote the legal, political
and security conditions” for each citizen and to protect all religious minorities,
including Christians, he said.

“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.

Instead, “it is well-known that the right to religious
freedom is often disregarded, and not infrequently religion becomes either an
occasion for the ideological justification of new forms of extremism or a
pretext for the social marginalization of believers, if not their downright
persecution,” he said.

Turning from events unfolding on the world stage, the pope drew 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.

“I consider it urgent, then, that genuine policies be
adopted to support the family, on which the future and the development of
states depend,” he said, adding that “without this, it is not
possible to create societies capable of meeting the challenges of the

Neglecting families has led to sharply declining birth rates
in some countries, which is a sign of a nation that is struggling to face the
challenges of the present and fearful of the future.

The pope also warned against talking about migrants and
migration “only for the sake of stirring up primal fears.” The
movements of peoples have always existed and the freedom of movement — to
leave one’s homeland and to return — is a fundamental human right, he said.

“There is a need, then, to abandon the familiar
rhetoric and start from the essential consideration that we are dealing, above
all, with persons,” he said.

Another urgent task before humanity, the pope said, is
caring for the earth.

“One must not downplay the importance of our own
responsibility in interaction with nature. Climate changes, with the global
rise in temperatures and their devastating effects, are also a consequence of
human activity,” he said.

Therefore, people must work together, he said, including by
upholding commitments agreed upon in the 2015 Paris Accord, and leave “to
coming generations a more beautiful and livable world,” he said.

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