Pope Benedict XVI poses with members of the Vatican's diplomatic corps during a meeting in the Sala Regia at the Vatican Jan. 7. The pope told foreign ambassadors that peace-building requires charity, religious liberty, and a proper understanding of huma n rights and openness to divine love. CNS photo/Evandro Inetti, pool

Peace is impossible without openness to God, Pope tells diplomats

By  Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service
  • January 7, 2013

VATICAN CITY - Deploring war, civil conflict and poverty around the world, Pope Benedict XVI told foreign ambassadors assembled at the Vatican that peace-building requires charity, religious liberty, a proper understanding of human rights and openness to divine love.

Pope Benedict made his remarks Jan. 7 in his annual address to members of the Vatican's diplomatic corps, presenting a survey of global troubles including "endless slaughter" in civil war-torn Syria, terrorist attacks on Christians in Nigeria and the impact of Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast of the United States. He also warned about the international spread of legalized abortion and growing inequality between rich and poor.

"Peace is not simply the fruit of human effort, but a participation in the very love of God," Pope Benedict told the envoys. "Without openness to the transcendent, human beings easily become prey to relativism and find it difficult to act justly and to work for peace."

The Pope pointedly distinguished true religion, which he said aims at "reconciling men and women with God" and hence with each other, from a "baneful religious fanaticism which, again in 2012, reaped victims in some countries represented here."

He particularly condemned recent attacks on Christian churches in Nigeria, including the "barbarous" killings of a dozen people by gunmen during services at Christmas. His remarks on sub-Saharan Africa also included a call for international intervention in Mali, where a military regime is fighting to reclaim the country's north from Islamist rebel forces.

The Pope's speech gave special attention to "that privileged region in God's plan, the Middle East," reiterating earlier calls for a cease-fire and peace talks in Syria, where he said the almost two-year civil war "will know no victors but only vanquished if it continues, leaving behind it nothing but a field of ruins." He urged foreign governments to provide "essential humanitarian aid" in response to the "grave humanitarian situation" in Syria.

Pope Benedict also reiterated the Vatican's support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Alluding to Egypt's new Islamist constitution, which has drawn opposition from liberals and religious minorities, the Pope assured "all Egyptians of my closeness and my prayers at this time when new institutions are being set in place."

Speaking more generally, the Pope stressed that peacemaking requires the protection of fundamental human rights and dignity, especially through "respect for human life at every stage." He said he felt "dismay" over recent moves to decriminalize abortion in various countries, which he said would upset the "balance between the right to life of the mother and that of the unborn child, a right belonging equally to both."

In Western societies today, the Pope said, "rights are often confused with exaggerated manifestations of the autonomy of the individual, who becomes self-referential ... absorbed only in seeking to satisfy his or her own needs."

Such societies also suffer from distorted economic values, the Pope said: "The current economic and financial crisis ... developed because profit was all too often made absolute, to the detriment of labor, and because of unrestrained ventures in the financial areas of the economy, rather than attending to the real economy."

Acknowledging tensions within the European Union between financially troubled debtor nations and their more prosperous neighbors, Pope Benedict called for continental solidarity and voiced dismay over "increasing differences between those few who grow ever richer and the many who grow hopelessly poorer."

The Pope also stressed the importance to peace of religious liberty, particularly the "right of conscientious objection," which he said was under threat in unspecified countries.

In the United States, an Obama administration plan to force most Catholic institutions to provide insurance coverage for contraception and sterilizations, which violate the church's moral teaching, has provoked strenuous opposition from U.S. bishops.

"Outlawing individual and institutional conscientious objection in the name of liberty and pluralism paradoxically opens by contrast the door to intolerance and forced uniformity," the Pope said.

The Holy See currently has diplomatic relations with 179 countries, as well as the European Union, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Palestine Liberation Organization.


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