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'Throwaway cultures' lead to breakdown of society, Pope Francis tells Diplomats

16 January 2015


Handshake: Pope Francis greets the Maulavi Ash-Sheikh M. F. M. Fazil at the Interreligious Encounter in Colombo, on Tuesday

Handshake: Pope Francis greets the Maulavi Ash-Sheikh M. F. M. Fazil at the Interreligious Encounter in Colombo, on Tuesday

THE Pope has likened aggressive atheistic secularism to Islamist extremism because they both "eliminate God" in pursuit of ideology.

Each involved the enslavement of people to the false gods of a "throwaway culture", Pope Francis suggested, in his annual address to diplomats accredited to the Vatican, which was held in Rome on Monday.

Such throwaway cultures invariably rejected God, then rejected people, too, "leading to the breakdown of society and the spawning violence and death", he said.

"We see painful evidence of this in the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris," the Pope said, referring to the slaughter of 12 staff of the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine by Islamist terrorists, and the murder of four hostages in a Jewish delicatessen in the city.

"Other people are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects," he continued.

"Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion," he said, in an apparent allusion to Western consumer societies.

"All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognising and doing good, of pursuing peace."

Islamic fundamentalism, the Pope said, was a particular "consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God.

"Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext."

He urged governments to do all they could to help refugees fleeing Islamist violence in Syria and Iraq, and he called on Muslim religious leaders to "condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence", such as the slaughter of children in Pakistan.

The world's governments, the Pope said, must strive to "end every form of fighting, hatred, and violence, and to pursue reconciliation, peace, and the defence of the transcendent dignity of the human person".

He encouraged dialogue between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and also between rivals in Ukraine.

The Pope also spoke about the rights of migrants fleeing conflicts, and their exploitation at the hands of "unscrupulous and greedy thugs".He said that, even if migrants successfully arrived in safe countries, they must then face "the drama of rejection". "A change of attitude is needed on our part," he said, "moving from indifference and fear to genuine acceptance of others."

The Pope denounced the abduction and rape of girls in such places as Nigeria, describing human trafficking as a "scourge which needs to be eradicated", and spoke of the need for peace in Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the Central African Republic.

He also urged the international community to do all it could to combat the outbreak of the Ebola virus in West Africa.

Turning his attention to Western societies, the Pope condemned attitudes that saw the family as "disposable", saying that they were anchored in an "individualistic and self-centred culture". He said that in such "drab" societies, even in Rome, "many people . . . have literally lost the sense of being alive."

On a more positive note, he expressed the hope that in the coming year the international community would draw up the Post-2015 Development Agenda, adopting Sustainable Development Goals, and draft a new Climate Change Agreement.

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