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Pope condemns terrorism in address to Vatican diplomatic corps

January 09, 2017

In his annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, Pope Francis denounced terrorism as “a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power.”

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In the speech— which is generally seen as the Pope’s “State of the World” address, insofar as he addresses the Vatican’s most pressing concerns regarding world affairs—the Pontiff spoke on many of the topics he mentions most frequently: the need for international security and peace, the positive effects of the Jubilee Year, the needs of migrants, the pernicious trafficking in human beings and the arms trade, and care for the environment.

Greeting the diplomats in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope thanked the diplomats for their service. Angola’s Ambassador Armindo Fernandes do Espirit Santo Vieira, the dean of the Vatican diplomatic corps, spoke for the envoys in welcoming the Pope and offering New Year’s greetings.

Pope Francis began his speech by remarking that a century ago, World War One was raging, and new totalitarian regimes were making their ominous presence felt. The situation now is very different, he observed. “For many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted.” However, he quickly added, “for all too many others, peace remains a distant dream.”

In this context the Pope insisted that “every expression of religion is called to promote peace.” He almented that “there has been no shortage of acts of religiously motivated violence, beginning with Europe itself.” In an unexpected twist, he then proceeded to speak not about Islamic terrorist attacks on Europe, but about conflicts among European Christians, and the need for greater ecumenical harmony.

Then the Pope did speak about interntional terrorism, saying that we should not “overlook the great number of religious inspired works that contribute, at times with the sacrifice of martyrs.” Following his usual pattern the Holy Father did not explicitly mention Islamic terrorism, but he decried the use of religoun “as a pretext for rejection, marginalziation, and violence.” He continued with a listing of incidents that have been attributed to jihadists:

I think particularly of the fundamentalist-inspired terrorism that in the past year has also reaped numerous victims throughout the world: in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey. These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travellers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul.

Addressing the responsibilities of diplomats and world leaders, Pope Francis said: “Peace is an ‘active virtue.’“ To build security, he said, leaders must address the root causes of conflict, including poverty and injustices. He said that the Jubilee Year of Mercy had helped in this regard, overcoming indifference to human suffering.

Turning specifically to the suffering of migrants and refuges, the Pontiff called for a “common commitment” to help. He applauded counties like Lebanon, Jordan, and Turkey, which have accepted enormous numbers of refugees. He acknowledged that every country must exercise prudence in setting its policies regarding immigration:

Prudence on the part of public authorities does not mean enacting policies of exclusion vis-à-vis migrants, but it does entail evaluating, with wisdom and foresight, the extent to which their country is in a position, without prejudice to the common good of citizens, to offer a decent life to migrants, especially those truly in need of protection.

In a round-up of the world’s trouble spots, Pope Francis called attention to “the brutal conflict in Syria,” the “quite urgent” crisis in Venezuela, the Israeli-Palestinian impasse, the destabilizing unrest on the Korean peninsula, and the “ongoing armed conflicts, massacres, and destruction” in Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. He voiced his hope for “viable solutions” to the conflict in Ukraine, and successful negotiations toward the reunifiaction of Cyprus.

Pope Francis concluded his talk by speaking about the need for protection of the environment. “To build peace also means to work actively for the care of creation,” he said.


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