Pope Benedict XVI on Monday expressed his deep concern for what he called “a profound disquiet” that is darkening the world at this moment in time.
Speaking during his annual “State of the World” address to the members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Vatican, Pope Benedict’s wide-ranging discourse did not fail to shine the light on issues of concern right across the globe.
He commenced by addressing “the grave and disturbing developments of the global economic and financial crisis” which – he said - not only has affected families and businesses, but has created feelings of disorientation and frustration especially in the young. The crisis – the Pope contined – can and must be an incentive to reflect on human existence and on the importance of its ethical dimension.
Benedict then turned his attention to North Africa and the Middle East where - he said – young people, fearful of an uncertain future, have launched what has developed into a vast movement calling for reforms and more share in political and social life. “I invite the international community” he said, “to dialogue with the actors in the current processes” and to contribute to the building of stable and reconciled societies that are opposed to every form of unjust discrimination.
And Benedict voiced his concern for the people of Syria, where he says, he prays for a rapid end to the bloodshed and the beginning of a fruitful dialogue between the political forces, encouraged by the presence of independent observers.
The Holy Father also encouraged Iraqi leaders to advance on the path to national reconciliation, and turned his attention to the Holy Land where tensions between Palestinians and Israelis continue to affect the stability of the entire Middle East.
Then, the Pope turned his attention to the pivotal role played by young people in society and underlined the need for solid educational institutions. Education – he said – is a crucial theme for every generation as it determines the healthy development of each person and the future of society. And the family – he explained – creates a fundamental “setting” for education. Hence – he said – “there is a need for policies which promote the family and aid social cohesion and dialogue”.
In this perspective – Pope Benedict continued – it is clear that an effective educational programme also calls for respect for religious freedom. He described religious freedom as “the first of human rights, for it expresses the most fundamental reality of the person”.
And the Pope payed tribute to the memory of Pakistani minister Shahbaz Bhatti whose untiring battle for the rights of minorities ended in his tragic death. Sadly – he said – “we are not speaking of an isolated case”. And Benedict went on to highlight the fact that in many countries Christians are deprived of fundamental rights, sidelined from public life and even violently attacked and forced to leave their homes. In the past year – he said – religiously motivated terrorism has reaped numerous victims, especially in Asia and Africa. For this reason – Benedict stressed – religious leaders need to repeat firmly and forcefully that “this is not the true nature of religion. It is the antithesis of religion and contributes to its destruction”.
And before ending, Pope Benedict mentioned continuing good relations between the Holy See and the State of Italy; he spoke of the need for African leaders to favour progress along the path of justice, peace and reconciliation; of the humanitarian emergency in the Horn of Africa.
The Pope did not neglect to mention his concern for continuing violence and instability in Nigeria, in Ivory Coast and in the Great Lakes region, and he appealed to the international community to make every effort to find a solution to the crisis in Somalia which – he said – has gone on for years.
Last, but not least, Pope Benedict highlighted the need to foster respect for creation. He looked back to the grave natural calamities which in 2011 affected various regions of the world and stressed his belief tht environmental protection and the connection between fighting poverty and fighting climate change are important areas for the promotion of human development. Read Full Address Here