Pope Benedict XVI has made an urgent appeal to civil and political authorities to work for peace. The Pope’s heartfelt cry came on Monday during his annual address to Members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See.
Speaking to representatives of the 179 States that currently have full diplomatic relations with the Vatican, as well as members of numerous international organizations such as the EU, the Order of Malta and the PLO, Pope Benedict emphasized that world leaders have a grave responsibility to work for peace. They are the first – he said – called to resolve the numerous conflicts causing bloodshed in our human family.
And the Pope went on to list urgent areas of concern starting with Syria which he described as being “torn apart by endless slaughter and the scene of dreadful suffering among its civilian population”. “I renew my appeal for a ceasefire” – the Pope said – “and for the inauguration as quickly as possible of a constructive dialogue aimed at putting an end to a conflict which will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins”.
Staying with the peacemaking theme, the Holy Father had strong words of preoccupation for the Holy Land where – he said – Israelis and Palestinians must “commit themselves to peaceful coexistence within the framework of two sovereign states”.
Benedict went on to mention Iraq, Lebanon, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, the DRC, Mali, the Central African Republic and Nigeria which – he observed – is regularly the scene of terrorist attacks which reap victims above all among the Christian faithful gathered in prayer. And the Pope condemned "religious fanatism” which he said is a falsification of religion itself since religion aims at reconciling men and women with God.
Looking also at signs of promise around the globe, the Pope said that peace building always comes about by the protection of human beings and their fundamental rights. Foremost among these – he stressed – “is respect for human life at every stage”, and in this regard he expressed gratification for a Council of Europe resolution calling for the prohibition of euthanasia.
Benedict then expressed concern for efforts being made by various countries to introduce or expand legislation which decriminalises abortion and for a recent decision by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights regarding in vitro fertilisation.
Staying with his peacemaking theme, the Holy Father emphasized that education is another privileged path to peacemaking. It is urgent – he pointed out – to train the leaders of tomorrow, and he appealed for investment in education in developing countries where the creation of legal systems which are equitable and respectful of human dignity are necessary if social and economic justice is to be achieved.
Peace in society – the Pope said – is also put at risk by certain threats to religious liberty and he pointed to the marginalization of religion in social life. In an ever more open world – Benedict said – “building peace through dialogue is no longer a choice but a necessity”.
Turning his attention to the 50th anniversary of the Encyclical letter “Pacem in Terris” the Pope recalled that peace remains an empty word if it is not nourished and completed by charity. Indeed – he said – charity is at the heart of the diplomatic activity of the Holy See and of the whole Catholic Church. And in the name of charity “the Church wishes to be near to all those who suffer natural disasters”. And he mentioned flood victims, hurricane victims and earthquake victims of devastated regions across the world.
Pope Benedict XVI concluded his discourse recalling the Second Vatican Council which started 50 years ago – citing Pope Paul VIth who sent out messages which remain relevant, including one addressed to world leaders. “Your task” - he said – is to be in the world the promoters of order and peace among men. But never forget this: it is God who is the great artisan of order and peace on earth”.