Most Holy Father,
I am very honored to present to you, once again, as Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, our best wishes for good health and the fruitful pursuit of your apostolic mission.
Allow me to express my joy at being able to experience together this customary moment of encounter which fills our hearts with hope and which, symbolically, shows the world the representatives of the States gathered around the Holy Father.
I would like to present to Your Holiness and to the Holy See the most sincere condolences of the diplomatic corps, and my personal ones, for the death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. We all remember, with esteem and affection, not only his commitment to the Church and his deep culture, but also his kindness and availability towards us diplomats as well. In the eight years of his pontificate, Benedict XVI accomplished an impressive pastoral and magisterial work. He also visited many of our countries.
Last year, at this time, we looked to the year 2022 with the confidence of a return to normal, after two years marked by the health emergency of the Covid-19 epidemic, and by the great sorrows which it has provoked in the world. As the most acute period of the crisis drew to a close, we were ready to rebuild our lives on hold, and heal the wounds.
Instead, the reality of the new year has been another terrible virus, that of war, which, far from being eradicated, seems to want to spread like a new pandemic which, unfortunately, threatens to drag down the whole world. As you said, in front of the Colosseum during the interreligious encounter promoted by the community of Sant’Egidio, in October 2022: “This year our prayer has become a cry, because today peace is seriously violated , injured, trampled on” (1).
With this bitter consideration in my heart, I would like to recall today the prayer you addressed to the Blessed Virgin Mary during the act of veneration last December 8. A prayer that touched me with the intensity and force of the exhortation addressed to Our Lady: “As I turn to you, who are without sin, may we continue to believe and hope that love prevail over hatred, may truth prevail over falsehood, may forgiveness prevail over offense, may peace prevail over war” (2).
The pain with which you spoke these words, and your emotion made us see with our eyes the suffering of humanity touched by the drama of the conflicts, with their procession of violence, suffering, destruction. Fathers and mothers who mourn the death of their children, young people who become orphans prematurely, houses destroyed, lands devastated, exiles and refugees. These images, which crossed our minds during your prayer, outline our mission as diplomats. The words you have spoken encourage our actions which aim to defuse the causes of conflicts and prevent them from exploding, taking away the good that dwells in every society.
The victory of peace can only be achieved by the ability of each to feel part of the human family. It is only through listening, dialogue, acceptance and welcoming the other, the weak, the marginalized, that it is possible to build this culture of peace which the world today today seems to be in great need. Tracing again the paths you have traced during the past year, the effort – including physical – that you have provided, Most Holy Father, to draw oxygen from the fire of evil and indifference appears obvious. We are here today to thank you for your example and your commitment.
These challenges, which you also illustrated in your recent Message for the day of peace, are taken up by diplomacy with the conviction that peace is vital not only for the countries in crisis, but also for the nations which are directly affected by it. or indirectly, the harmful consequences. Among these challenges, poverty, inequalities, access to food, public health and decent work for all, “the reception and integration, in particular of migrants and those who live as rejected in our societies” (3) seem the most relevant.
We thank you, Holy Father, for the examples to follow that you offer us through your travels. In Malta, you drew attention to the theme of hospitality and fraternity. You recalled that the Phoenician meaning of the name of the island is “safe port” and that a common approach to the question of immigration is fundamental. You spoke of a “Mediterranean which needs co-responsibility (…) so that it becomes once again a place of solidarity”. Allow me to borrow your words to summarize in one sentence the complexity of the migratory phenomenon and the great responsibility of each of us in building a more united and peaceful society: “The other is not a virus from which we would have to defend ourselves, but a person to welcome” (4).
During your “penitential pilgrimage” to Canada, you pursued the path of “healing and reconciliation” (5) with the indigenous populations, you showed your solidarity with the peoples of the peripheries and you recalled the commitment of the Holy See in favor of the safeguard of creation.
Your Holiness, you have suggested how much listening and understanding are at the foundation of ecumenism, of dialogue between religions. On the occasion of the Seventh Congress of Heads of World and Traditional Religions in Kazakhstan, you pointed out that, among the fundamental rights of a multiethnic and multicultural society, “religious freedom constitutes the best cradle of civil coexistence” (6) . Very Holy Father, I thank you for having reminded us that the ability to find and meet each other, while respecting the freedoms and duties of each, is the basis of a society where harmony reigns between people.
In Bahrain, Your Holiness, participant in the Forum for dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence, you have invited us, once again, to recognize the value of what intrinsically unites us while maintaining our specificities and our diversity. In the spirit of the Encyclical Fratelli tutti and continuing on the path initiated by the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Common Coexistence, signed in Abu Dhabi on February 4, 2019 with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar , Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, you reminded us, Most Holy Father, how “Unity is not: ‘all the same’, no, it is achieved through difference. … In short, [l’Esprit Saint] does not confine us to uniformity but disposes us to welcome each other in our differences” (7).
Holy Father, allow me to move towards the conclusion by evoking another journey, not geographical this one but internal to the Holy See, not turned towards what has been but towards what will be. Allow me to recall the importance of completing the journey, ecclesial and synodal, of the Apostolic Constitution Praedicate evangelium on the Roman Curia and its service to the Church in the world. A profound reform which marks your pontificate and which, as you write, serves to “promote a more effective evangelization; to promote a more fruitful ecumenical spirit; to encourage a more constructive dialogue with everyone” (8).
As you reminded us in the Urbi et Orbi message on Christmas morning, “our time has a serious shortage of peace”. We know well that peace is a tortuous path which cannot be traveled alone. Our thoughts go out to the many places where “World War III in pieces” is taking place, and where peace is struggling to make its voice heard. Places for which you asked, on Christmas morning, that the guns be silenced! But we know well that peace requires courage and truth.
Most Holy Father, I greet you and thank you on behalf of the diplomatic family to the Holy See, which I have the honor to represent as Dean. I offer you my best wishes for the journey and the pilgrimage of peace and reconciliation that you will soon undertake in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and in South Sudan, on this continent, Africa, the cradle of humanity. Thank you, Holy Father, for your tireless work, hope for so many peoples, so many men and women from all latitudes.
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