THE world is grappling with a “homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death”, Pope Francis has said in a New Year address to the diplomatic community, in which he has called for peace.
Terrorism, inspired by religious fundamentalism, had claimed lives in dozens of countries across the globe over the past 12 months, the Pope said on Monday.
Religious leaders should join him in “reaffirming unequivocally that one can never kill in God’s name”, he said in his annual New Year speech to diplomats stationed at the Vatican.
Too often, religion was used as a pretext for violence, he said: this was an ancient as well as a modern scourge. He noted his recent visit to Sweden to mark the forthcoming 500th anniversary of the Reformation, and the wars of religion that it unleashed (News, 4 November).
While religious leaders must address the spiritual poverty that caused faith-inspired terrorism, political leaders must address social poverty, which often created the conditions in which fundamentalism could grow and spread, he said.
More than 100 years after the “useless slaughter” of the First World War, millions of people still lived amid “senseless conflicts”, the Pope told his audience of diplomats from around the world.
“For all too many others, peace remains merely a distant dream,” he said. “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.”
True peace was not just an absence of war, but the ending of injustice, he argued. Therefore, governments must not merely aim to keep their own citizens safe, but be peacemakers who “work actively for the growth of peace”.
Picking up on the theme of last year’s address (News, 15 January 2016), Pope Francis said that there could never be true peace as long as migrants and refugees were treated as statistics rather than people.
All nations should share the burden of the current wave of migration, he argued, and find ways to welcome foreigners while maintaining internal security.
The Pope hailed faltering steps towards reconciliation in Venezuela, and between Cuba and the United States, and urged the international community not to give up hope of finding peace in the Middle East. Killing must not become an impossible-to-break habit, he urged his audience.
He drew his remarks to a close by considering the approaching 60th anniversary of the foundation of the European Union. The unification of Europe, begun after the Second World War, was, he said, a “unique opportunity for stability, peace, and solidarity between peoples”.
The values that lay behind this project were of huge importance to the Holy See, he said, and transcend the borders of the EU.