What a week this has been – Pope Benedict’s death December 31st, his January 5 funeral, the Epiphany on January 6, the Baptism of Our Lord yesterday, January 8, with Pope Francis baptizing 13 infants in the Sistine Chapel, and today the annual papal speech to the Diplomatic Corps.

At the bottom of this report of today’s meeting with the diplomatic corps is a video of the full encounter. There is a link in the following summary to the full speech in English.


In his address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See, Pope Francis calls for an “immediate end to this senseless conflict” in Ukraine and the abolition of the death penalty. The Pope reiterates the two-state solution in the Holy Land and urges “integral disarmament.” He underscores the nuclear threat. He makes an appeal for women and against abortion. And he expresses concern over the situation in Brazil and other places due to tensions caused by polarization.

By Salvatore Cernuzio

Pope Francis addressed a host of international themes in his annual new year’s meeting with the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See. He highlighted key challenges facing our world and affecting everyone, such as the war in Ukraine and the “wake of death and destruction” it leaves behind, with people dying not only from bombs but also from hunger and cold. He mentioned the political and social tensions in Brazil, but also in Peru and Haiti, the violence between Israelis and Palestinians, the death penalty in Iran, and the exclusion of women from education in Afghanistan. He devoted attention to crises around the world: war-torn Syria and Yemen with populations dealing with deadly landmines; terrorism in Africa; the conflicts in the South Caucasus; the social, economic and political crisis in Lebanon; and the tragedy of migration that has turned the Mediterranean into a graveyard.

World War III

In his extensive address to the diplomats held traditionally at the beginning of the New Year, the Pope gave an overview of the global situation, mentioning the troubled areas where conflicts and tensions are taking place today on the five continents. The reality that emerges is one of a “third world war”, truly global in nature, “where conflicts involve only certain areas of the planet directly, but in fact involve them all.”

Democracy weakening

Faced with this world scene, the Pope called on everyone to build peace together and reinvigorate democracy which, due to “heightened political and social polarization,” is weakening in various countries, along with “the breadth of freedom that it enables, albeit with all the limitations of any human system.” Peru, Haiti and in recent hours Brazil, as seen with yesterday’s assault on institutional buildings, are examples of situations “laden with tensions and forms of violence” that such polarization brings.

 “There is a constant need to overcome partisan ways of thinking and to work for the promotion of the common good.”

China agreement

Pope Francis’ reflections, a call for “peace in a world that is witnessing heightened divisions and wars,” as he described it, begins with gratitude to the ambassadors for their messages of condolence on the death of Benedict XVI. He also mentions the extension of the Provisional Agreement regarding the appointments of Bishops between China and the Holy See, “in the context of a respectful and constructive dialogue.”

“It is my hope that this collaborative relationship can increase, for the benefit of the life of the Catholic Church and that of the Chinese people.

Nuclear threat

The Pope’s thoughts then turned to the Encyclical Pacem in Terris, now marking its 60th anniversary, written by John XXIII while the threat of a nuclear war over the Cuban missile crisis was still alive. The Pope underscored that, “humanity would have been only a step away from its own annihilation, had it not proved possible to make dialogue prevail…Sadly, today too, the nuclear threat is raised, and the world once more feels fear and anguish.”

He then reaffirmed that “the possession of atomic weapons is immoral” because, as Pope John XXIII observed, “there is no denying that the conflagration could be started by some chance and unforeseen circumstance.” He underscored the risks nuclear weapons pose and “the appalling slaughter and destruction that war would bring in its wake.”

In this area, Pope Francis expressed particular concern about the stalemate in negotiations over the Iran nuclear agreement and hopes for an immediate solution for “the sake of ensuring a more secure future.”

Ending war in Ukraine

The Pope then focused his thoughts on Ukraine and condemned attacks on civilian infrastructure that “that cause lives to be lost not only from gunfire and acts of violence, but also from hunger and freezing cold.”

“Today, I feel bound to renew my appeal for an immediate end to this senseless conflict, whose effects are felt in entire regions, also outside of Europe, due to its repercussions in the areas of energy and food production, above all in Africa and in the Middle East.”

TO CONTINUE (this is an interesting video with the pope’s entire talk in English translation): (Pope: In face of nuclear threat and risks to freedom, let us build peace together – Vatican News



Pope Francis today addressed members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See in what is an annual address usually held the second Monday of January. He highlighted the lights and shadows of the world but principally focussed this year’s message on two topics – the theme of security and peace and “religiously motivated violence,” particularly “on 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.”

The diplomats represent 182 nations and include 88 ambassadors who are full time residents in Rome. The newest member accredited to the Holy See, as Pope Francis specifically mentioned in his opening remarks, was the Islamic Republic of Mauritania. He spoke of various bilateral agreements and concordats and pointed out that, “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.”

The Holy See also has relations with numerous international institutions and agencies such as the United Nations.

Pope Francis began his remarks by noting that, “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.” (photo news.va)


This, he said, is why he was devoting his address to the theme of security and peace.”

Francis explained that “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,” he said, “I voice my firm conviction that every expression of religion is called to promote peace. …. 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. …..”

“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.” Naming the places that had experienced terrorism in the past year, the Pope said, “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 travelers 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.”

For the entire papal address, click here: http://www.news.va/en/news/peace-security-focal-points-of-popes-speech-to-dip



I posted some stories and lot of travel and other info about the Holy Year in Rome on my Facebook page over the weekend, so you might want to pay a visit: http://www.facebook.com/joan.lewis.10420

Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, quoting the lyrics to Davis Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” sent out this tweet to commemorate the singer who died yesterday at the age of 69 after 18 months of fighting cancer: “Ground Control to Major Tom Commencing countdown, engines on Check ignition and may God’s love be with you (David Bowie).”


Pope Francis on Sunday, during Mass in the Sistine Chapel, baptized 26 babies – 13 boys and 13 girls. This is always a special annual event as parents, god-parents and other family members wait with bated breath for this most important moment in the life of their child – and also wait to see if theirs will be the first baby to cry during the ceremony! In fact, as several babies were heard crying, Pope Francis told the mothers should feel free to feed their children whenever they are hungry. (photo: news.va)


The Holy Father had celebrated Mass in the chapel for the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. He told parents to nurture the faith, saying, “Don’t forget that the greatest inheritance you can give to your children is the faith. Try to see that it is not lost, nurture it and leave it as an inheritance.” In his homily, which was brief and off-the-cuff, Francis told parents that in bringing their children to the chapel to receive baptism, they are imitating the act of Mary and Joseph, who, 40 days after Jesus’ birth, brought him to the temple to present him to God.

Pope Francis noted that eventually the infants baptized will grow up to be parents themselves, and will ask the same thing for their own children. Future parents, he said, will ask for “the faith, the faith that is given in baptism, the faith that today brings the Holy Spirit into the hearts, souls and lives of these, your children.”

Later, at the noon Angelus, the Pope highlighted the baptism ceremony in the Sistine Chapel and asked the faithful in St. Peter’s Square: “Do you know the date of your baptism? If not, I will give you a homework assignment: Go home and find the date of your baptism – talk to your parents, god-parents or other relatives, perhaps even the parish.”

The Holy Father has previously asked the same question on a number of occasions, mostly at a Sunday Angelus.

Francis had a special blessing for all children recently baptized, and included adults and young people who are preparing or have recently received the Sacraments of Christian Initiation.


In a lengthy speech lasting over 30 minutes, Pope Francis today gave his annual address to members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Currently, 180 States, the European Union, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Permanent Mission of the State of Palestine are accredited to the Holy See. After being greeted in the Sala Regia by the new dean of the diplomatic corps, Armindo Fernandes do Espirito Santo Vieira, ambassador of Angola, Francis addressed the assembled diplomats. (photo: news.va)


He looked at the year just past and highlighted its lights and shadows in a broad international overview. Though the greater part of his talk focused on the migration issue, he also addressed the arms trade, inter-religious dialogue, the need to overcome indifference, the “throwaway” culture so prevalent today, achieving “peace through religious experiences authentically lived,” terrorism and a theme very dear to him, especially in this Jubilee Year – mercy.

The Pope highlighted certain agreements concluded within the last year by the Holy See. He spoke of his trips, country by country. He spoke of the importance of the Jubilee of mercy and the quality of mercy.

He urged the ambassadors to reflect on “the poor, the marginalized and the ‘least’ of society,” noting the “grave crisis of migration we are facing, in order to discern its causes, to consider possible solutions, and to overcome the inevitable fears associated with this massive and formidable phenomenon, which in 2015 has mainly concerned Europe, but also various regions of Asia and North and Central America.”

“Many of the causes of migration could have been addressed some time ago. … Much could be done to end these tragedies and to build peace” but we must have the courage to question “entrenched habits and practices,” including “the arms trade, the provision of raw materials and energy, investment, policies of financing and sustainable development.” There must be “mid-term and long-term planning which is not limited to emergency responses” aime at providing “effective assistance for integrating migrants in their receiving countries” as well as promoting “the development of their countries of origin through policies inspired by solidarity.”

Francis asked the diplomats to attempt to “discern the causes and map out solutions” to the migratory emergency.

He said, “Europe must continue to take in migrants despite the massive landings and fears of terrorism” that “seem to shake” Europe’s welcome system: Europe must overcome “fears for security” and “not lose the foundations of its humanistic spirit.” He specifically thanked Italy as having “saved so many lives in the Mediterranean.”

The Holy Father also appealed for an end to “people trafficking, which turns human beings into a commodity, especially the weakest and most defenseless. … The images of children dead at sea are indelibly impressed in our minds and hearts.”

Francis noted that “we all look with hope to the important steps taken by the international community to reach a political and diplomatic solution to the crisis in Syria, to put an end to the suffering, which has lasted too long, of the population.”

On terrorism, he said only “common action” can defeat terrorism and extremism. “Only a distorted ideological form of religion can think that justice is done in the name of the Almighty by deliberately slaughtering defenseless persons, as in the brutal terrorist attacks which occurred in recent months in Africa, Europe and the Middle East.”

On another topic, he spoke to the national anti-usury board and called on the Holy Spirit to help “fight with all [our] force to defeat the widespread social plagues of usury and gambling.” This board is a consultative body that aims to coordinate efforts to fight usury and loan-sharking in all their forms.

The entire 4,010-word address may be found here: http://www.news.va/en/news/pope-francis-speech-to-diplomatic-corps