THE nationalistic tendencies that led to the Second World War have returned and are threatening the peace-keeping work of humanitarian organisations, Pope Francis has warned.
The Pope was delivering his annual New Year address on Monday to the 183 members of the Diplomatic Corps who currently have diplomatic relations with the Holy See. He pointed to the forthcoming anniversaries in 2019, including the centenary of the League of Nations, which was established at the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on 28 June 1919.
“Why do I mention an organisation that today no longer exists? Because it represents the beginning of modern multilateral diplomacy, whereby states attempt to distance their reciprocal relations from the mentality of domination that leads to war.
“The experiment of the League of Nations quickly met with those well-known difficulties that, exactly 20 years after its birth, led to a new and more devastating conflict: the Second World War. Nevertheless, that experiment paved the way for the establishment, in 1945, of the United Nations.”
Multilateral diplomacy requires good will, faith, fairness, openness, honesty, and compromise of the parties, he said. “Whenever even one of these elements is missing, the result is a search for unilateral solutions, and, in the end, the domination of the powerful over the weak.
“The League of Nations failed for these very reasons, and one notes with regret that the same attitudes are presently threatening the stability of the major international organisations.”
The desire for “serene and constructive discussions” between nations was dwindling, he warned. “Relationships within the international community, and the multilateral system as a whole, are experiencing a period of difficulty, with the resurgence of nationalistic tendencies at odds with the vocation of the international organisations.”
These attitudes date back to the time between the two world wars, he said. “The reappearance of these impulses today is progressively weakening the multilateral system, resulting in a general lack of trust, a crisis of credibility in international political life, and a gradual marginalisation of the most vulnerable members of the family of nations.”
The Pope spoke of the plight of people displaced by war in the Middle East, and urged the international community to defend refugees and migrants. He had already urged European leaders, in his address for the Epiphany, on Sunday, to help the 49 migrants stranded on two humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean, who were “seeking a safe port where they can disembark”.
“I make a heartfelt appeal to European leaders to show concrete solidarity for these people.”
On Monday, he again spoke of the “plague” of child abuse, including that inflicted by members of his own clergy (News, 4 January), and the “bane” of violence against women. “There is an urgent need to recover correct and balanced forms of relationship, based on respect and mutual recognition . . . [but] the promotion of certain forms of non-differentiation between the genders risks distorting the very essence of manhood and womanhood.”
He also urged nations to unite in addressing climate change after the international Conference on Climate Change (COP24) held in Katowice, Poland, last month (News, 17 December).
The Ambassador of Cyprus, George Poulides, who is the Dean of the Corps, responded by thanking Pope Francis for his commitment to defend human rights, and agreed that there was much still to be done to alleviate the “dramatic challenges that must be constantly met”: poverty, conflict, modern slavery, religious persecution, climate change, and the nuclear threat.