A broad vision and a big heart is what must characterize the service of the Cardinals of the Church of Rome and what Pope Francis explicitly recommended in a letter he penned and what coloured the traditional address to the Diplomatic Corps, namely to the entire world. An address which calls to mind the perfect expression Paul VIset forth at Castel Gandolfo on 5 August 1963, just a few weeks after his election, as a kind of spiritual programme for his pontificate which had just commenced: “papal politics: an ever watchful initiative for the good of others”.
Pope Francis wished to emphasize that papal politics spring from the Pope’s “heart as a pastor” and his concern “for the joys and sufferings of humanity”. These words echo the beginning of one of the most famous documents of the Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes. He first addressed concern for the family, which should resemble the Holy Family of the newborn Jesus: an open community with room for everyone and where fraternity is learned.
The Bishop of Rome certainly did not conceal the difficulties which families today have to face, from the weakening sense of belonging, to adverse conditions, and for this reason he asks for suitable policies aimed at supporting and strengthening the family. Once again the Pope highlighted the weakness of the two age groups in society — the elderly and the young — which have been ostracized by a culture of the ephemeral which ultimately exhausts itself in avid consumerism and myopia which puts the very future of many societies at risk.
This closure is what must be combated in order to favour a culture of encounter, as for example in Syria, where every-day war sows destruction, atrocities and death. The day of fasting and prayer which the Pope called for in September was important and gave rise to unexpected consensus, but now “a renewed political will” is urgently needed to end the conflict, as the Geneva Conference approaches. And while the diplomats listened to the papal address, behind closed doors a meeting was being held at the Pontifical Academy for Sciences on the tragic situation in Syria.
Regarding the international scene, and the concern over tension and violence in Lebanon, Iraq and Egypt, in Africa and Asia, one notices that the effort to assist millions of refugees fleeing from Syria to Lebanon and Jordan, is having positive results, in addition to the progress being made on the nuclear situation in Iran. This is the royal road which the Holy See never tires of indicating; indeed, the Holy See has been actively working for over a century on the frontiers of peace. For this reason, he takes up Benedict XV’s call to end the “needless carnage” caused by the tremendous international conflicts, whose centenary Pope Francis also recalled.
With trust and firmness, the Pope pointed to every glimmer of hope, but did not shy away from denouncing recurring and persistent tragedies which continue to claim countless lives, including many children, due to hunger, abortion, war and human trafficking: all of which are “crimes against humanity”. Peace — Paul VIused to repeat, as his successor recalled today — is not simply the absence of warfare but is “fashioned by efforts directed day after day”. And yet it is necessary for everyone to contribute to building peace, without distinction.
St. Peter’s Square
Jan. 19, 2019
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