It is one of the most anticipated papal speeches of the year, continuing a tradition of centuries-long Vatican attention to diplomatic matters. In front of the 183 ambassadors and diplomats accredited to the Holy See, Francis reaffirmed, Monday, January 9 during his speech of good wishes to the authorities in the Hall of Blessings of Saint Peter’s Basilica, that diplomacy has the “task of settling the disputes in order to foster a climate of trust in order to meet common needs”.
Without departing from habit, the pope first engaged in a “world tour” of the main crises affecting the planet. Calls to relaunch negotiations “in deadlock” on the Iranian nuclear issue, to immediately end the war in Ukraine – a “senseless conflict” whose “effects affect entire regions, even outside Europe” -, to dialogue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or finally, among other burning issues, the end of violence and terrorism in West Africa, concern linked to the attempted putsch on Sunday January 8 against the Brazilian power…
“The Third World War of a globalized world is currently underway. The conflicts directly affect only certain areas of the planet, but in essence they involve the whole world,” the pope stressed. It is necessary to break with this logic [de production d’armements nouveaux] and to advance on the path of complete disarmament, because no peace is possible where instruments of death are spread”.
How to proceed further, according to the Pope’s wish, to “reweave the threads of peace” in 2023, in a context of such protean tensions? In his speech, Francis cited four axes in the light of which this must be particularly sought, citing the “fundamental goods” identified, sixty years earlier, by his predecessor John XXIII in his encyclical Pacem in terris (1963): “ truth, justice, solidarity and freedom”.
“These are the pillars that govern relations both between individual human beings and between political communities,” he insisted. Women’s rights, protection of life from conception to its natural end, eradication of the culture of rejection, abolition of the death penalty… “Building peace in truth means first of all respecting the human person, with his right to existence and to physical integrity (…)”, he began, before urging States to guarantee access to education for all, and to preserve religious freedom in a context of increasing violence and discrimination against Christians.
The construction of peace also requires, for the pope, that justice be pursued, while the multilateral system needs to be “rethought in depth” and that the major international bodies are marked by growing polarizations and attempts to impose a single thought preventing dialogue. “There is a risk of drift which increasingly takes on the face of ideological totalitarianism,” François lamented.
In terms of solidarity, he identified three areas where “the interconnection” is, according to him, striking. First the migratory field, on which it is not allowed to “proceed in a dispersed row”, he assured. “To understand it, just look at the Mediterranean, which has become a great tomb. These shattered lives are the emblem of the sinking of our civilization (…)”, he hammered, calling for the implementation of new policies for the reception and integration of migrants. Then, that of the economy and work, when it is necessary “to restore dignity to the company, by fighting against the exploitation which treats the workers like a commodity”. Finally, that of the care to be given to Creation.
The pope also deplored a weakening of democracy in many parts of the world. Before, finally, closing his long address with a dream, that it would be “beautiful”, “one time”, to be able to meet “just to thank the Lord (…) for the benefits he always grants us, without being obliged to enumerate the dramatic situations which afflict humanity”.