Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic Culture Resources
Catholic World News

Major themes of Pope’s ‘State of the World’ address [news analysis]

January 09, 2023

In his annual “State of the World” address to the members of the Vatican diplomatic corps, Pope Francis offered a new reason for saying that “the possession of atomic weapons is immoral;” criticized Iran’s use of the death penalty; decried the war in Ukraine and a “third world war” being fought piecemeal; and warned about threats to democracy.

In his January 9 address to the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See—an annual event anticipated as a sketch of the Vatican’s diplomatic priorities—the Pope said that “diplomacy is an exercise of humility,” contrasting it with “the human pride and arrogance that are the cause of every will to wage war.”

After reviewing the diplomatic pacts that the Holy See signed in 2022, and mentioning in particular the renewal of a secret agreement with China, the Pope launch into the main body of his address by speaking about the danger of nuclear weapons.

Here I can only reaffirm that the possession of atomic weapons is immoral, because, as John XXIII observed, “although it is difficult to believe that anyone would dare to assume responsibility for initiating the appalling slaughter and destruction that war would bring in its wake, there is no denying that the conflagration could be started by some chance and unforeseen circumstance.”

That argument borrowed from Pope John XXIII suggests that the most cogent argument against the possession of nuclear weapons is the possibility of accidental nuclear war—a possibility that world powers have successfully avoided for decades—rather than the inherent immorality of using weapons designed to produce massive civilian casualties.

However the Pontiff did denounce the toll that warfare takes on civilians in other contexts, particularly as he spoke of “the third world war” in which “conflicts involve only certain areas of the planet directly, but in fact involve them all.” He spoke passionately against the war in Ukraine, but also mentioned the continuing bloodshed in Syria, the Holy Land, the Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, and Myanmar.

Turning then to the prospects for peace, Pope Francis lamented: “Despite the commitments undertaken by all states to respect human rights and the fundamental freedoms of each person, even today, in many countries, women are considered second-class citizens.” He went on to say: “The right to life is also threatened in those places where the death penalty continues to be imposed, as is happening in Iran in these days.”

The Pontiff also remarked that the right to life is endangered by “the promotion of an alleged right to abortion,” and an “ideological colonization” that disdains traditional cultural norms. He added that “we increasingly witness the emergence of a fear of life,” noting the collapse of birth rates—specifically mentioning the “dangerous” trend in Italy.

Pope Francis then made a plea for solidarity, stressing the need for generous treatment of migrants and “care of our common home.”

As he moved toward the conclusion of his address, the Pontiff observed that “in many parts of the world, there is a weakening of democracy and of the breadth of freedom.” He pointed to such dangerous situations in the Americas—in Brazil and Peru and Haiti—and in Lebanon, a country that is “still awaiting the election of a new president.”


For all current news, visit our News home page.

Sound Off! supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a current donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

  • Posted by: rfr46 - Jan. 11, 2023 7:44 AM ET USA

    This address appears to have been written by a committee of the United Nations, not by a bishop of the Catholic Church.

  • Posted by: Retired01 - Jan. 09, 2023 12:37 PM ET USA

    Let's be thankful that he did not ask for a call to be more loving, compassionate, understanding, sympathetic, welcoming and merciful with the LGBT+-=* community.