POPE DELIVERS HIS ANNUAL ADDRESS TO THE DIPLOMATIC CORPS
VATICAN CITY, 7 JAN 2008 (VIS) - This morning in the Sala Regia of the Vatican, Pope Benedict pronounced his traditional annual address to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. He also received greetings from the ambassadors in a speech delivered by Giovanni Galassi, ambassador of San Marino and dean of the diplomatic corps.
The Holy See currently maintains diplomatic relations with 176 States, to which must be added the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. It also has relations of a special nature with the Russian Federation and the Palestine Liberation Organisation.
At the beginning of his address, the Holy Father recalled how diplomatic relations were established last year with the United Arab Emirates. He also mentioned his own journeys abroad, including the visit to Brazil last May. On this subject, he expressed his hope for "increasing co-operation among the peoples of Latin America, and, within each of the countries that make up that continent, the resolution of internal conflicts".
"I wish to mention Cuba", he said, "which is preparing to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the visit of my venerable predecessor. Pope John Paul II was received with affection by the authorities and by the people, and he encouraged all Cubans to work together for a better future. I should like to reiterate this message of hope, which has lost none of its relevance.
"My thoughts and prayers", he added, "are directed especially towards the peoples affected by appalling natural disasters. I am thinking of the hurricanes and floods which have devastated certain regions of Mexico and Central America, as well as countries in Africa and Asia, especially Bangladesh, and parts of Oceania".
Turning to reflect on the international community's concern for the situation in the Middle East, he said: "I am glad that the Annapolis Conference pointed towards the abandonment of partisan or unilateral solutions, in favour of a global approach respectful of the rights and legitimate interests of all the peoples of the region. I appeal once more to the Israelis and the Palestinians to concentrate their energies on the implementation of commitments made on that occasion, and to expedite the process that has happily been restarted. Moreover, I invite the international community to give strong support to these two peoples and to understand their respective sufferings and fears.
"Who can remain unmoved by the plight of Lebanon, amid its trials and all the violence that continues to shake that beloved country? It is my earnest wish that the Lebanese people will be able to decide freely on their future and I ask the Lord to enlighten them, beginning with the leaders of public life, so that, putting aside particular interests, they will be ready to pledge themselves to the path of dialogue and reconciliation. Only in this way will the country be able to progress in stability and to become once more an example of the peaceful coexistence of different communities.
"In Iraq too, reconciliation is urgently needed! At present, terrorist attacks, threats and violence continue, especially against the Christian community, and the news which arrived yesterday confirms our concern; it is clear that certain difficult political issues remain unresolved. In this context, an appropriate constitutional reform will need to safeguard the rights of minorities. Important humanitarian aid is necessary for the peoples affected by the war; I am thinking especially of displaced persons within the country and refugees who have fled abroad, among whom there are many Christians".
"I should also like to express my support for continued and uninterrupted pursuit of the path of diplomacy in order to resolve the issue of Iran's nuclear programme, by negotiating in good faith, adopting measures designed to increase transparency and mutual trust, and always taking account of the authentic needs of peoples and the common good of the human family.
"Turning our gaze now towards the whole of Asia, I should like to draw your attention to some other crisis situations, first of all to Pakistan, which has suffered from serious violence in recent months. I hope that all political and social forces will commit themselves to building a peaceful society, respectful of the rights of all. In Afghanistan, in addition to violence, there are other serious social problems, such as the production of drugs".
On the subject of Africa, the Holy Father said: "I should like first of all to reiterate my deep anguish, on observing that hope seems almost vanquished by the menacing sequence of hunger and death that is unfolding in Darfur. With all my heart I pray that the joint operation of the United Nations and the African Union, whose mission has just begun, will bring aid and comfort to the suffering populations".
"Somalia, particularly Mogadishu, continues to be afflicted by violence and poverty. I appeal to the parties in conflict to cease their military operations, to facilitate the movement of humanitarian aid and to respect civilians.
"In recent days Kenya has experienced an abrupt outbreak of violence. I join the bishops in their appeal made on 2 January, inviting all the inhabitants, especially political leaders, to seek a peaceful solution through dialogue, based on justice and fraternity".
Finally, the Pope turned his attention to Europe: "I rejoice at the progress that has been made in various countries of the Balkan region, and I express once again the hope that the definitive status of Kosovo will take account of the legitimate claims of the parties involved and will guarantee security and respect for the rights of all the inhabitants of this land, so that the spectre of violence will be definitively removed and European stability strengthened".
Also on the subject of Europe, the Pope gave assurances that he is "following attentively the new phase which began with the signing of the Treaty of Lisbon. This step gives a boost to the process of building the 'European home', which 'will be a good place to live for everyone only if it is built on a solid cultural and moral foundation of common values drawn from our history and our traditions' and if it does not deny its Christian roots.
"From this rapid overview it appears clear that the security and stability of the world are still fragile. The factors of concern are varied", he said, and "law can be an effective force for peace only if its foundations remain solidly anchored in natural law, given by the Creator. This is another reason why God can never be excluded from the horizon of man or of history. God's name is a name of justice, it represents an urgent appeal for peace".
"This realisation could help, among other things, to give direction to initiatives for intercultural and inter-religious dialogue. ... In order to be true, this dialogue must be clear, avoiding relativism and syncretism, while at the same time it must be marked by sincere respect for others and by a spirit of reconciliation and fraternity".
"In every continent the Catholic Church strives to ensure that human rights are not only proclaimed but put into practice. It is to be hoped that agencies created for the defence and promotion of human rights will devote all their energies to this task and, in particular, that the Human Rights Council will be able to meet the expectations generated by its creation.
"The Holy See for its part never tires of reaffirming these principles and rights, founded on what is essential and permanent in the human person. The Church willingly undertakes this service to the true dignity of human persons, created in the image of God. And on the basis of these considerations, I cannot but deplore once again the continual attacks perpetrated on every continent against human life".
"I rejoice that on 18 December the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution calling upon States to institute a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, and I earnestly hope that this initiative will lead to public debate on the sacred character of human life.
"I regret, once again, the disturbing threats to the integrity of the family, founded on the marriage of a man and a woman. Political leaders, of whatever kind, should defend this fundamental institution, the basic cell of society".
"Even religious freedom, 'an essential requirement of the dignity of every person [and] a cornerstone of the structure of human rights' is often undermined. There are many places where this right cannot be fully exercised. The Holy See defends it, demands that it be universally respected, and views with concern discrimination against Christians and against the followers of other religions.
"Peace cannot be a mere word or a vain aspiration. Peace is a commitment and a manner of life which demands that the legitimate aspirations of all should be satisfied, such as access to food, water and energy, to medicine and technology, or indeed the monitoring of climate change. Only in this way can we build the future of humanity; only in this way can we facilitate an integral development valid for today and tomorrow".
"Finally, I wish to urge the international community to make a global commitment on security. A joint effort on the part of States to implement all the obligations undertaken and to prevent terrorists from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction would undoubtedly strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime and make it more effective".
"Diplomacy is, in a certain sense, the art of hope", the Pope concluded. "It lives from hope and seeks to discern even its most tenuous signs. Diplomacy must give hope. ... May God open the hearts of those who govern the family of peoples to the hope that never disappoints!"