Warmth of mercy can overcome cold indifference, pope tells diplomats

By Junno Arocho Esteves

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Cold indifference to migrants, the poor, the hungry and
the persecuted must be overcome through the warmth of mercy, which can transform
people into artisans of peace, Pope Francis said.

In a lengthy speech Jan. 11 to diplomats accredited to the
Holy See, the pope called on the world’s governments to work together to combat the
effects of a “culture of waste” that sacrifices “men and women
before the idols of profit and consumption.”

Dialogue, he said, is the antidote that can heal the world
of the “individualistic spirit” growing in today’s culture, causing
indifference toward
those who suffer, particularly migrants who only seek to “live in peace
and dignity.”

Biblical and human history is marked by countless migrations
of those seeking a
better life or fleeing
circumstances such as war, persecution, poverty or the effects of climate
change, Pope Francis said. Unfortunately, their suffering has begun to “appear normal” to too many people.

a special appeal on behalf of those fleeing war and religious
persecution, the pope said
they often find themselves at the mercy of the “powerful who
exploit the weak” or
turn to human traffickers where they “may well lose their possessions,
their dignity and even their lives.” The pope called for an end to human
trafficking, adding that “it turns human beings, especially the weakest
and most defenseless, into commodities.”

who are taking in migrants, he said, also face hardships and fears, especially
due to the growing threat of international terrorism. Despite the
difficulties, the pope affirmed his conviction that Europe has the means to
“balance between its twofold moral responsibility to protect the rights of
its citizens and to ensure assistance and acceptance to migrants.”

Expressing gratitude for initiatives in welcoming migrants, the
pope recognized the efforts of countries such as Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and
Greece, who have continued to help and not close their borders. He also
commended the Italian government’s commitment to saving lives in the Mediterranean and its taking responsibility
for “a massive number of refugees.”

“It is my hope that the traditional sense of
hospitality and solidarity which distinguishes the Italian people will not be
weakened by the inevitable difficulties of the moment but that, in light of its
age-old tradition, the nation may prove capable of accepting and integrating
the social, economic and cultural contribution which migrants can offer,”
he said.

cultural implications of migration, particularly in regards to different religious
affiliations, also must be addressed, he said. Without “sincere and
respectful dialogue,” growing
diversity can lead to fears and to viewing others as enemies due to
“closed-mindedness and intransigence.”

“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,” he said.

Recalling his apostolic visits in 2015 to Africa, North and South America and
Asia, the pope said that mercy was the common thread that linked his journeys,
particularly in areas suffering due to war, poverty, social inequality and

He also
warned that the centrality of the family as “the first and most important
school of mercy” is
threatened by growing efforts to redefine the institution of marriage, “by relativism,
by the culture of the ephemeral, by a lack of openness to life.”

“Today there is a widespread fear of the definitive
commitment demanded by the family; those who pay the price are the young, who
are often vulnerable and uncertain, and the elderly, who end up being neglected
and abandoned,” the pope said.

While noting that the new year has begun with tensions, particularly
with the recent
hydrogen bomb test conducted in North Korea, the pope expressed his hope that
those involved in conflicts around the world “will be open to the voice of
peace and a readiness to seek agreements.”

And the pope urged the world community to place human dignity at
the heart of its humanitarian response in fighting the culture of waste and lack of respect
for human life.

“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,” he said.
“We have grown indifferent to all sorts of waste, starting with the waste
of food, which is all more deplorable when so many individuals and families
suffer hunger and malnutrition.”

The Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said, can serve as an opportunity to
overcome indifference and work toward lasting peace in the world.

“I am certain that this jubilee year will be a favorable occasion for the cold indifference of
so many hearts to be won over by the warmth of mercy, that precious gift of God
which turns fear into love and makes us artisans of peace,” the pope said.

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