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Pope Francis’ 2015 ‘State of the World’ Address to Vatican Diplomats

L'Osservatore Romano
Courtesy of L'Osservatore Romano
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Wide ranging speech focuses on peace, also praises developments in US/Cuba relations, intention to close Guantanamo, and drafting of new climate change agreement

Pope Francis this morning delivered his annual "state of the world address" to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, in the Sala Regia of the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican.

Following several introductory remarks by the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Jean-Claude Michel, Ambassador of the Principality of Monaco to the Holy See, the Pope delivered the following address.

***

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I thank you for your presence at this traditional meeting, which allows me at the beginning of each new year to offer to you, your families, and the peoples you represent, my cordial greetings and best wishes.  I am especially grateful to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words which he addressed to me in the name of all, and I thank each of you for your constant efforts to foster in a spirit of mutual cooperation the relations between the countries and international organizations which you represent and the Holy See. In the course of the past year too, these relations were consolidated by an increase in the presence of ambassadors resident in Rome and by the signing of new bilateral Accords, both general, like that concluded last January with Cameroon, and specific, like those signed with Malta and Serbia.

Today I wish to repeat a word quite dear to us: peace! It comes to us from the angelic hosts who proclaimed it on Christmas night (cf. Lk 2:14) as a precious gift of God, while at the same time as a personal and social responsibility which calls for our commitment and concern. But together with peace, the image of the Christmas creche speaks to us another tragic reality: that of rejection. In some iconographic representations, both in the West and in the East – I think for example of the splendid Nativity icon of Andrej Rublev – the Child Jesus is shown not lying in a manger, but in a tomb. The image, which is meant to connect the two principal Christian feasts of Christmas and Easter, shows that the joyful acceptance of this new birth is inseparable from the entire drama of Jesus’ life, his humiliation and rejection, even to death on the cross.

The Christmas stories themselves show us the hardened heart of a humanity which finds it difficult to accept the Child. From the very start, he is cast aside, left out in the cold, forced to be born in a stable since there was no room in the inn (cf. Lk 2:7). If this is how the Son of God was treated, how much more so is it the case with so many of our brothers and sisters! Rejection is an attitude we all share; it makes us see our neighbour not as a brother or sister to be accepted, but as unworthy of our attention, a rival, or someone to be bent to our will. This is the mindset which fosters that “throwaway culture” which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, even God himself. It gives rise to a humanity filled with pain and constantly torn by tensions and conflicts of every sort.

Emblematic of this, in the Gospel infancy narratives, is King Herod. Feeling his authority threatened by the Child Jesus, he orders all the children of Bethlehem to be killed.  We think immediately of Pakistan, where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality. To their families I wish to renew my personal condolences and the assurance of my continued prayers for the many innocents who lost their lives.

The personal dimension of rejection is inevitably accompanied by a social dimension, a culture of rejection which severs the deepest and most authentic human bonds, leading to the breakdown of society and spawning violence and death. We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago. Other people “are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects” (Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2014, 4). Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion. These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.

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