Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Peace and Security
On January 13, Msgr. Tomasz Grysa, First Counsellor for the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the UN, delivered the following statement at the side event entitled, "The Role of Interrelious and Intercultural Dialogue in Peace in Security," sponsored by the Permanent Mission of Hungary to the UN.
“The Role of Interreligious and Intercultural Dialogue in Peace and Security”
UN Headquarters Conference Room 11
January 13, 2017
Ambassador Bogyay, Your Excellencies, Distinguished Panelists, Dear Ladies and Gentlemen,
Four days ago, in a coincidence we might call providential, Pope Francis spoke at length in the Vatican, during his annual address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, about the role of interreligious and intercultural dialogue in promoting peace and security.
Grateful for your kind invitation, I would like to structure my remarks by sharing and reflecting upon some of his insights, as they convey effectively what the Holy See believes are essential components to promoting the trust and understanding necessary to build peaceful, just and inclusive societies.
Pope Francis began his remarks by candidly acknowledging the world’s situation. For millions today, he said, “peace remains merely a distant dream,” living as so many are in the “midst of senseless conflicts.” Even in places that were once considered secure, he added, “a general sense of fear is felt,” because the scourge of terrorism has brought violence close to home and because people everywhere have become overwhelmed by images of the suffering of innocent men, women and children pleading for help in the midst of bombings, of the grief of those mourning the death of their loved ones, and of the heart-piercing drama of refugees risking their lives to flee war.
In response to this world-wide “climate of apprehension for the present and uncertainty and anxious concern for the future,” Pope Francis accentuated, it is important not only to speak a word of hope for those longing for peace, justice and the security that flows from them, but to indicate a path toward the fulfillment of that hope.
A key part of that path, he insisted, is the “firm conviction that every expression of religion is called to promote peace.” Just as important, he said, is the joint testimony given when different religious come together to pray and work for peace, as happened last September at the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Assisi. Interreligious dialogue and intercultural dialogue in which religious leaders play a major role, he emphasized, provide the peoples of the world a paradigm to discuss their differences, grow in mutual appreciation of the others’ perspective, heal past wounds, and journey together toward peace and other common goals. Religiously motivated men and women, moved as they are by the call to reverence the other’s God-given dignity and love their neighbor, have a special responsibility to show everyone how to converse about the most important and deepest matters and work respectfully through what may divide.
The Pope acknowledged that religious leaders and believers have not always lived up to this responsibility as peacemakers. “We know,” he said, “that there has been no shortage of acts of religiously motivated violence,” that “even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence,” the worst expression of which is the “homicidal madness that misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power.” But the response to this insanity, he stressed, cannot be an eye for an eye or entering into a vicious cycle of retaliatory violence, but must rather take the form of “authentic dialogue between religious confessions” beginning with the joint and unequivocal reaffirmation that killing others in the name of God is the worst blasphemy against God’s name.
Fundamentalist terrorism, he underlined, is not the outgrowth of religion properly understood, but rather the fruit of a “profound spiritual poverty” often linked to a “significant social poverty.” To defeat it, he said, requires the “joint contribution of religious and political leaders.” Religious leaders, he observed, must transmit those religious values that “do not separate fear of God from love of neighbor.” Political leaders, he added, are charged with “guaranteeing in the public forum the right to religious freedom, while acknowledging religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society that sees no opposition between social belonging, sanctioned by the principle of citizenship, and the spiritual dimension of life.” They also have the responsibility for “ensuring that conditions do not exist,” like poverty, insufficient support for healthy families, and inadequate investment in education and culture “that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism.”
Pope Francis finished by mentioning several conditions for peace and the security that fosters and flows from peace. I’ll mention briefly seven, each of which is nurtured by authentic religions and by healthy interreligious dialogue.
The first condition is the defence and promotion of the full vision of the human person and human dignity, since a “reductive vision” of the human person, he said, “opens the way to the spread of injustice, social inequality and corruption.” The strength of religions and faith-based organizations does not lie in economic or political power, material resources or scientific expertise, but in their being a spiritual force and a moral compass, helping individuals and societies recognize and respect the inherent dignity of each and every human person, no matter how small, handicapped, or vulnerable, no matter the sex, race, nationality, ethnicity, or religion of the other.
The second condition is fighting injustice and rooting out the “causes of discord that lead to wars.” Religions help adherents to focus on their own sins and the roots of those sins — such as envy, greed, pride, anger — and seek mercy from God, which is something that can help eradicate the personal and social cancers that metastasize to violence. This emphasis on conversion, to removing the plank from one’s own eye rather than obsessing about the speck in another’s, is a medicine to remedy the tendency to violence.
The third is a commitment to responding non-violently to harms suffered. Peace involves “above all else,” His Holiness underscored, “renouncing violence in vindicating one’s rights.” Pope Francis dedicated his Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace at the beginning of this month to “Nonviolence [as a] Style of Politics for Peace.” Religions train people to leave vengeance to the justice of God who will right wrongs, bring good of evil, and have the last word. They form people to use the “arms” of prayer to respond to suffering rather than resorting to weapons and violence. They help people to respect the rule of law and respect the dignity of others even and especially when their own rights and dignity were not affirmed.
This leads to the fourth condition, which is the culture and practice of forgiveness, something Pope Francis said “heals and rebuilds human relations from their foundations.” Forgiveness is not opposed to justice, he stressed, but rather is its fulfillment because at the same time as it categorically condemns evil as evil, it leads to the profound healing of the wounds that fester in human hearts. Some of the world’s most intractable conflicts involve parties’ trying to settle scores from injustices that occurred decades or even centuries ago. Peace involves the courageous choice of forgiveness, the heroic decision not to allow the wounds of the past to bleed into the present and future.
The fifth condition Pope Francis mentions is the common effort at “education and social assistance, especially in areas of great poverty and in theaters of conflict.” In short, peace involves integral development — personal, social, economic and environmental — since lack of equitable distribution of resources, employment opportunities, food insecurity and the exploitation of natural resources often provide the fuel for violence and conflict. Religions and faith-based organizations have long been on the front lines of this humanitarian work, both giving the poor fish and teaching them how to fish, building hospitals and social assistance centers. They are also among the world’s greatest educators, especially in those areas with no access otherwise to schooling. The importance of this work in forming the head and the heart cannot be overstated, since it gives people, especially the young, the ability critically to assess the destructive narratives and appeals of demagogues that engender extremism and violence, as well as the confidence to proclaim and live as citizens a different and constructive message.
The sixth condition is “the engagement and cooperation of each individual and society as a whole.” Peace is not something achievable by diplomats, politicians, religious and civil society leaders alone. The arduous task involves everyone, something obvious by how much a given individual can do to disrupt the cause of peace. Religions are particularly important in this regard, since they foster a culture of encounter, solidarity, and brotherhood on which true pluralism and tolerance can be built. They help people to transcend selfishness, lest brothers and sisters recapitulate the Biblical story of Cain and Abel. They explicitly and intentionally form peacemakers.
Finally, the promotion of peace involves a political and moral commitment not just to the security of one’s own citizens but to work actively for the growth of peace beyond one’s borders. As we have learned from the geographical data behind the rise of radical terrorism as well as the refugee and migration crisis, the lack of peace in one area of the world eventually spills far beyond one’s borders. The very transnational nature of religious groups, not to mention the moral imperative to love one’s neighbor within an increasingly interconnected worldwide neighborhood, fosters the type of mutually interested concern and solidarity that can help put out fires before the fire spreads regionally or worldwide.
In his Message for the World Day of Peace at the beginning of this new year, Pope Francis emphasized that “peace is the only true direction of human progress,” and at the end of his remarks earlier this week to the ambassadors from the 182 nations who have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, he described how that “peace is a gift, a challenge and a commitment.”
It’s a gift, he said, “because it flows from the very heart of God.” It is a challenge “because it is a good that can never be taken for granted and must constantly be achieved.” And it is a commitment, “because it demands passionate effort on the part of all people of goodwill to seek and build it.”
The religions of the world are indispensable agents, working individually and especially together, in advancing the cause of peace and security in the world. They do so precisely by helping us all to remember and appreciate this fragile gift and pray for it; by seeking through teaching and example to inspire billions of believers and non-believers to rise up to meet this challenge in every generation; and by manifesting the passionate, patient, persevering commitment to the pivotal work of peace-making and peace-building.
That’s why, as Pope Francis wrote in 2013, “Interreligious dialogue is a necessary condition for peace in the world" (Evangelii Gaudium 250), and essential for ensuring “true human progress.”
Thank you very much for your kind attention.
Holy Father's Address to Diplomats
On January 9, the Holy Father delivered his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Holy See. His address was dedicated to the theme of peace and security, noting that 100 years ago, the First World War was well under way, and increasing in global destruction. He called world leaders and diplomats to work towards peace not only in their own countries, but to enhance peace throughout the world. Pope Francis praised the international community's collaboration at the United Nations' World Humanitarian Summit and the Summit for Refugees and Migrants, emphasizing the suffering faced by migrants.
His address follows.
Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Monday, 9 January 2017
Your Excellencies, Dear Ambassadors,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
I offer you a cordial welcome. I thank you for your presence in such numbers at this traditional gathering, which permits us to exchange greetings and good wishes that the year just beginning will be for everyone a time of joy, prosperity and peace. I express particular gratitude to the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency Armindo Fernandes do Espírito Santo Vieira, the Ambassador of Angola, for his courteous greetings on behalf of the entire Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, which has recently been enlarged following the establishment of diplomatic relations with the Islamic Republic of Mauritania a month ago. I likewise express my gratitude to the many Ambassadors resident in Rome, whose number has grown this past year, and to the non-resident Ambassadors, whose presence today is a clear sign of the bonds of friendship uniting their peoples to the Holy See. At the same time, I would like to express heartfelt condolences to the Ambassador of Malaysia for the death of his predecessor, Dato’ Mohd Zulkephli Bin Mohd Noor, who passed away last February.
In the course of the past year, relations between your countries and the Holy See were further consolidated, thanks to the welcome visit of many Heads of State and Government, also in conjunction with the numerous events of the recently concluded Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. So too, a variety of bilateral Agreements were signed or ratified, both those of a general nature aimed at recognizing the Church’s juridical status, with the Democratic Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Benin and Timor East, and those of a more specific character, the Avenant signed with France, the Convention on fiscal matters with the Republic of Italy, recently entered into force, and the Memorandum of Understanding between the Secretariat of State and the Government of the United Arab Emirates. Furthermore, in the context of the Holy See’s commitment to the obligations assumed by the aforementioned Agreements, the Comprehensive Agreement with the State of Palestine, which took effect a year ago, was fully implemented.
A century ago, we were in the midst of the First World War. A “useless slaughter”, in which new methods of warfare sowed death and caused immense suffering to the defenceless civil population. In 1917, the conflict changed profoundly, taking on increasingly global proportions, while those totalitarian regimes, which were long to be a cause of bitter divisions, began to appear on the horizon. A hundred years later, it can be said that many parts of the world have benefited from lengthy periods of peace, which have favoured opportunities for economic development and unprecedented prosperity. For many people today, peace appears as a blessing to be taken for granted, for all intents an acquired right to which not much thought is given. Yet, for all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream. Millions of people still live in the midst of senseless conflicts. Even in places once considered secure, a general sense of fear is felt. We are frequently overwhelmed by images of death, by the pain of innocent men, women and children who plead for help and consolation, by the grief of those mourning the loss of a dear one due to hatred and violence, and by the drama of refugees fleeing war and migrants meeting tragic deaths.
For this reason, I would like to devote today’s meeting to the theme of security and peace. In today’s climate of general apprehension for the present, and uncertainty and anxious concern for the future, I feel it is important to speak a word of hope, which can also indicate a path on which to embark.
Just a few days ago, we celebrated the Fiftieth World Day of Peace, instituted by my blessed predecessor Paul VI “as a hope and as a promise, at the beginning of the calendar which measures and describes the path of human life in time, that peace with its just and beneficent equilibrium may dominate the development of events to come”. For Christians, peace is a gift of the Lord, proclaimed in song by the Angels at the moment of Christ’s birth: “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace among those whom he favours” (Lk 2:14). Peace is a positive good, “the fruit of the right ordering of things” with which God has invested human society; it is “more than the absence of war”. Nor can it be “reduced to the maintenance of a balance of power between opposing forces”. Rather, it demands the commitment of those persons of good will who “thirst for an ever more perfect reign of justice”.
In this regard, I voice my firm conviction that every expression of religion is called to promote peace. I saw this clearly in the World Day of Prayer for Peace held in Assisi last September, during which the representatives of the different religions gathered to “give voice together to all those who suffer, to all those who have no voice and are not heard”, as well as in my visits to the Synagogue of Rome and the Mosque in Baku.
We know that there has been no shortage of acts of religiously motivated violence, beginning with Europe itself, where the historical divisions between Christians have endured all too long. In my recent visit to Sweden, I mentioned the urgent need for healing past wounds and journeying together towards common goals. The basis of that journey can only be authentic dialogue between different religious confessions. Such dialogue is possible and necessary, as I wished to show by my meeting in Cuba with Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, as well as by my Apostolic Journeys to Armenia, Georgia and Azerbaijan, where I sensed the rightful aspiration of those peoples to resolve conflicts which for years have threatened social harmony and peace.
At the same time, it is fitting that we not overlook the great number of religiously inspired works that contribute, at times with the sacrifice of martyrs, to the pursuit of the common good through education and social assistance, especially in areas of great poverty and in theatres of conflict. These efforts advance peace and testify that individuals of different nationalities, cultures and traditions can indeed live and work together, provided that the dignity of the human person is placed at the centre of their activities.
Sadly, we are conscious that even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence. I think particularly of the fundamentalist-inspired terrorism that in the past year has also reaped numerous victims throughout the world: in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Egypt, France, Germany, Jordan, Iraq, Nigeria, Pakistan, the United States of America, Tunisia and Turkey. These are vile acts that use children to kill, as in Nigeria, or target people at prayer, as in the Coptic Cathedral of Cairo, or travellers or workers, as in Brussels, or passers-by in the streets of cities like Nice and Berlin, or simply people celebrating the arrival of the new year, as in Istanbul.
We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power. Hence I appeal to all religious authorities to join in reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name. Fundamentalist terrorism is the fruit of a profound spiritual poverty, and often is linked to significant social poverty. It can only be fully defeated with the joint contribution of religious and political leaders. The former are charged with transmitting those religious values which do not separate fear of God from love of neighbour. The latter are charged with guaranteeing in the public forum the right to religious freedom, while acknowledging religion’s positive and constructive contribution to the building of a civil society that sees no opposition between social belonging, sanctioned by the principle of citizenship, and the spiritual dimension of life. Government leaders are also responsible for ensuring that conditions do not exist that can serve as fertile terrain for the spread of forms of fundamentalism. This calls for suitable social policies aimed at combating poverty; such policies cannot prescind from a clear appreciation of the importance of the family as the privileged place for growth in human maturity, and from a major investment in the areas of education and culture.
In this regard, I was interested to learn of the Council of Europe’s initiative on the religious dimension of intercultural dialogue, which in the past year discussed the role of education in preventing radicalization leading to terrorism and extremist violence. This represents an occasion for a better understanding of the role of religion and education in bringing about the authentic social harmony needed for coexistence in a multicultural society.
Here I would express my conviction that political authorities must not limit themselves to ensuring the security of their own citizens – a concept which could easily be reduced to a mere “quiet life” – but are called also to work actively for the growth of peace. Peace is an “active virtue”, once that calls for the engagement and cooperation of each individual and society as a whole. As the Second Vatican Council observed, “peace will never be achieved once and for all, but must be built up continually”, by safeguarding the good of persons and respecting their dignity. Peacemaking requires above all else renouncing violence in vindicating one’s rights. To this very principle I devoted my Message for the 2017 World Day of Peace, with the title, “Nonviolence: a Style of Politics for Peace”. I wished primarily to reaffirm that nonviolence is a political style based on the rule of law and the dignity of each person.
Peacemaking also demands that “those causes of discord which lead to wars be rooted out”, beginning with acts of injustice. Indeed, justice and peace are intimately linked. Yet, as Saint John Paul II observed, “because human justice is always fragile and imperfect, subject as it is to the limitations and egoism of individuals and groups, it must include and, as it were, be completed by the forgiveness that heals and rebuilds human relations from their foundations… Forgiveness is in no way opposed to justice. It is rather the fullness of justice, leading to that tranquillity of order” which involves “the deepest healing of the wounds which fester in human hearts. Justice and forgiveness are both essential to such healing”. Those words remain most timely, and met with openness on the part of some Heads of State or Government to my request to make a gesture of clemency towards the incarcerated. To them, and to all those who promote dignified living conditions for prisoners and their reintegration into society, I would like to express my particular appreciation and gratitude.
I am convinced that for many people the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy was an especially fruitful moment for rediscovering “mercy’s immense positive influence as a social value”. In this way, everyone can help bring about “a culture of mercy, based on the rediscovery of encounter with others, a culture in which no one looks at another with indifference or turns away from the suffering of our brothers and sisters”. Only thus will it be possible to build societies that are open and welcoming towards foreigners and at the same time internally secure and at peace. This is all the more needed at the present time, when massive waves of migration continue in various parts of the world. I think in a special way of the great numbers of displaced persons and refugees in some areas of Africa and Southeast Asia, and all those who are fleeing areas of conflict in the Middle East.
Last year the international community gathered at two important events convened by the United Nations: the first World Humanitarian Summit and the Summit for Refugees and Migrants. With regard to migrants, displaced persons and refugees, a common commitment is needed, one focused on offering them a dignified welcome. This would involve respecting the right of “every human being… to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there”, while at the same time ensuring that migrants can be integrated into the societies in which they are received without the latter sensing that their security, cultural identity and political-social stability are threatened. On the other hand, immigrants themselves must not forget that they have a duty to respect the laws, culture and traditions of the countries in which they are received.
Prudence on the part of public authorities does not mean enacting policies of exclusion vis-à-vis migrants, but it does entail evaluating, with wisdom and foresight, the extent to which their country is in a position, without prejudice to the common good of citizens, to offer a decent life to migrants, especially those truly in need of protection. Above all, the current crisis should not be reduced to a simple matter of numbers. Migrants are persons, with their own names, stories and families. There can never be true peace as long as a single human being is violated in his or her personal identity and reduced to a mere statistic or an object of economic calculation.
The issue of migration is not one that can leave some countries indifferent, while others are left with the burden of humanitarian assistance, often at the cost of notable strain and great hardship, in the face of an apparently unending emergency. All should feel responsible for jointly pursuing the international common good, also through concrete gestures of human solidarity; these are essential building-blocks of that peace and development which entire nations and millions of people still await. So I am grateful to the many countries which offer a generous welcome to those in need, beginning with various European nations, particularly Italy, Germany, Greece and Sweden.
I vividly remember my visit to the island of Lesvos in the company of my brothers Patriarch Bartholomew and Archbishop Ieronymos. There I saw at first hand the dramatic situation of the refugee camps, but also the goodness and spirit of service shown by the many persons committed to assisting those living there. Nor should we overlook the welcome offered by other countries of Europe and the Middle East, such as Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey, as well as the commitment of various African and Asian countries. In the course of my visit to Mexico, where I experienced the joy of the Mexican people, I likewise felt close to the thousands of migrants from Central America who, in their attempt to find a better future, endure terrible injustices and dangers, victims of extortion and objects of that deplorable trade – that horrible form of modern slavery – which is human trafficking.
One enemy of peace is a “reductive vision” of the human person, which opens the way to the spread of injustice, social inequality and corruption. With regard to this last phenomenon, the Holy See has taken on new commitments with its formal adherence, on 19 September last, to the United Nations Convention against Corruption, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations on 31 October 2003.
In his encyclical Populorum Progressio, issued fifty years ago, Blessed Paul VI noted how such situations of inequality provoke conflict. As he stated, “civil progress and economic development are the only road to peace”, which public authorities have the duty to encourage and foster by creating conditions for a more equitable distribution of resources and by generating employment opportunities, especially for young people. In today’s world, all too many people, especially children, still suffer from endemic poverty and live in conditions of food insecurity – indeed, hunger – even as natural resources are the object of greedy exploitation by a few, and enormous amounts of food are wasted daily.
Children and young people are the future; it is for them that we work and build. They cannot be selfishly overlooked or forgotten. As I stated recently in a letter addressed to all bishops, I consider it a priority to protect children, whose innocence is often violated by exploitation, clandestine and slave labour, prostitution or the abuse of adults, criminals and dealers in death.
During my visit to Poland for World Youth Day, I encountered thousands of young people full of life and enthusiasm. Yet in many of them I also saw pain and suffering. I think of the young people affected by the brutal conflict in Syria, deprived of the joys of childhood and youth, such as the ability to play games and to attend school. My constant thoughts are with them and the beloved Syrian people. I appeal to the international community to make every effort to encourage serious negotiations for an end to the conflict, which is causing a genuine human catastrophe. Each of the parties must give priority to international humanitarian law, and guarantee the protection of civilians and needed humanitarian aid for the populace. Our common aspiration is that the recently signed truce will be a sign of hope for the whole Syrian people, so greatly in need of it.
This also means working for the elimination of the deplorable arms trade and the never-ending race to create and spread ever more sophisticated weaponry. Particularly disturbing are the experiments being conducted on the Korean Peninsula, which destabilize the entire region and raise troubling questions for the entire international community about the risk of a new nuclear arms race. The words of Saint John XXIII in Pacem in Terris continue to ring true: “Justice, right reason and the recognition of human dignity cry out insistently for a cessation to the arms race. The stockpiles of armaments which have been built up in various countries must be reduced all round by the parties concerned. Nuclear weapons must be banned”. In the light of this, and in view of the forthcoming Conference on Disarmament, the Holy See seeks to promote an ethics of peace and security that goes beyond that fear and “closure” which condition the debate on nuclear weapons.
Also with regard to conventional weapons, we need to acknowledge that easy access to the sale of arms, including those of small calibre, not only aggravates various conflicts, but also generates a widespread sense of insecurity and fear. This is all the more dangerous in times, like our own, of social uncertainty and epochal changes.
Another enemy of peace is the ideology that exploits social unrest in order to foment contempt and hate, and views others as enemies to be eliminated. Sadly, new ideologies constantly appear on the horizon of humanity. Under the guise of promising great benefits, they instead leave a trail of poverty, division, social tensions, suffering and, not infrequently, death. Peace, on the other hand, triumphs through solidarity. It generates the desire for dialogue and cooperation which finds an essential instrument in diplomacy. Mercy and solidarity inspire the convinced efforts of the Holy See and the Catholic Church to avert conflicts and to accompany processes of peace, reconciliation and the search for negotiated solutions. It is heartening that some of these attempts have met with the good will of many people who, from a number of quarters, have actively and fruitfully worked for peace. I think of the efforts made in the last two years for rapprochement between Cuba and the United States. I think also of the persevering efforts made, albeit not without difficulty, to end years of conflict in Colombia.
That approach aims at encouraging reciprocal trust, supporting processes of dialogue and emphasizing the need for courageous gestures. These are quite urgent in neighbouring Venezuela, where the effects of the political, social and economic crisis have long burdened the civil population. So too in other parts of the world, beginning with the Middle East, a similar approach is needed, not only to bring an end to the Syrian conflict, but also to foster fully reconciled societies in Iraq and in Yemen. The Holy See renews its urgent appeal for the resumption of dialogue between Israelis and Palestinians towards a stable and enduring solution that guarantees the peaceful coexistence of two states within internationally recognized borders. No conflict can become a habit impossible to break. Israelis and Palestinians need peace. The whole Middle East urgently needs peace!
I also express my hope that there will be a full implementation of the agreements aimed at restoring peace in Libya, where it is imperative to reconcile the divisions of recent years. I likewise encourage every effort on the local and international level to renew peaceful civil coexistence in Sudan and South Sudan, and in the Central African Republic, all plagued by ongoing armed conflicts, massacres and destruction, as well as in other African nations marked by tensions and political and social instability. In particular, I express my hope that the recently-signed agreement in the Democratic Republic of Congo may help enable political leaders to work diligently to pursue reconciliation and dialogue between all elements of civil society. My thoughts also turn to Myanmar, that efforts will be made to foster peaceful co-existence and, with the support of the international community, to provide assistance to those in grave and pressing need.
In Europe too, where tensions also exist, openness to dialogue is the only way to ensure the security and development of the continent. Consequently, I welcome those initiatives favouring the process of reunification in Cyprus, where negotiations resume today, and I express my hope that in Ukraine viable solutions will continue to be pursued with determination in order to fulfil the commitments undertaken by the parties involved and, above all, that a prompt response will be given to the humanitarian situation, which remains grave.
Europe as a whole is experiencing a decisive moment in its history, one in which it is called to rediscover its proper identity. This requires recovering its roots in order to shape its future. In response to currents of divisiveness, it is all the more urgent to update “the idea of Europe”, so as to give birth to a new humanism based on the capacity to integrate, dialogue and generate that made the “Old Continent” great. The process of European unification, begun after the Second World War, continues to be a unique opportunity for stability, peace and solidarity between peoples. On this occasion, I can only reaffirm the interest and concern of the Holy See for Europe and its future, conscious that the values that were the inspiration and basis of that project, which this year celebrates its sixtieth anniversary, are values common to the entire continent and transcend the borders of the European Union itself.
Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,
To build peace also means to work actively for the care of creation. The Paris Agreement on the climate, which recently took effect, is an important sign of the shared commitment to bequeath a more beautiful and livable world to those who will come after us. It is my hope that the efforts made in recent times to respond to climate change will meet with increased cooperation on the part of all, for the earth is our common home and we need to realize that the choices of each have consequences for all.
Clearly, however, certain phenomena go beyond the possibilities of human intervention. I refer to the numerous earthquakes which have struck some areas of the world. I think especially of those in Ecuador, Italy and Indonesia, which has claimed numerous victims and left many others in conditions of great insecurity. I was able to visit personally some of the areas affected by the earthquake in central Italy. In addition to seeing the damage done to a land rich in art and culture, I shared the pain of many people, but I also witnessed their courage and their determination to rebuild what was destroyed. I pray that the solidarity which united the beloved Italian people in the days after the earthquake will continue to inspire the entire nation, particularly at this delicate time in its history. The Holy See and Italy are particularly close for obvious historical, cultural and geographical reasons. This relationship was evident in the Jubilee Year, and I thank all the Italian authorities for their help in organizing this event and ensuring the security of pilgrims from all over the world.
Peace is a gift, a challenge and a commitment. It is a gift because it flows from the very heart of God. It is a challenge because it is a good that can never be taken for granted and must constantly be achieved. It is a commitment because it demands passionate effort on the part of all people of goodwill to seek and build it. For true peace can only come about on the basis of a vision of human beings capable of promoting an integral development respectful of their transcendent dignity. As Blessed Paul VI observed, “development is the new name for peace”.
This, then, is my prayerful hope for the year just begun: that our countries and their peoples may find increased opportunities to work together in building true peace. For its part, the Holy See, and the Secretariat of State in particular, will always be ready to cooperate with those committed to ending current conflicts and to offer support and hope to all who suffer.
In the Church’s liturgy, we greet one another with the words: “Peace be with you”. With this same greeting, as a pledge of abundant divine blessings, I renew to each of you, distinguished members of the Diplomatic Corps, to your families and to the countries you represent, my heartfelt good wishes for the New Year.
 BENEDICT XV, Letter to the Leaders of the Peoples at War (1 August 1917): AAS 9 (1917), 421.
 Message for the Celebration of the First World Day of Peace (1 January 1968).
 SECOND VATICAN ECUMENICAL COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes (7 December 1965), 78.
 Address at the World Day of Prayer for Peace, Assisi, 20 September 2016.
 Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 78.
 Cf. ibid.
 Ibid., 83.
 Cf. Ps 85:11 and Is 32:17.
 Message for the Thirty-fifth World Day of Peace: There is no Peace without Justice, There is no Justice without Forgiveness (1 January 2002), 3.
 Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera (20 November 2016), 18.
 Ibid., 20.
 JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris (11 April 1963), 25.
 Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio (26 March 1967), 83.
 Cf. Letter to Bishops on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, 28 December 2016.
 Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, 112.
 Cf. Address at the Conferral of the Charlemagne Prize, 6 May 2016.
 Cf. Encyclical Letter Populorum Progressio, 87.