“Other people ‘are no longer regarded as beings of equal dignity, as brothers or sisters sharing a common humanity, but rather as objects’. Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion” he said, quoting his Message for the 2015 World Day of Peace from December 8 2014.
“These are dangers which I pointed out in my recent Message for the World Day of Peace, which dealt with the issue of today’s multiple forms of enslavement. All of them are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognising and doing good, of pursuing peace.”
Pope Francis called on religious communities to condemn terrorism, especially Muslim leaders. He said: “I express my hope that religious, political and intellectual leaders, especially those of the Muslim community, will condemn all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion which attempt to justify such acts of violence.”
The Pope added that extremist mentalities had caused a “true world war fought piecemeal.” He said: “They affect, albeit in different forms and degrees of intensity, a number of areas in our world, beginning with nearby Ukraine, which has become a dramatic theatre of combat. It is my hope that through dialogue the efforts presently being made to end the hostilities will be consolidated, and that the parties involved will embark as quickly as possible, in a renewed spirit of respect for international law, upon the path of mutual trust and fraternal reconciliation, with the aim of bringing an end to the present crisis.”
The Pope decried the “chilling” fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and Iraq. He said: “This phenomenon is a 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. In the face of such unjust aggression, which also strikes Christians and other ethnic and religious groups in the region, the Yazidis for example, a unanimous response is needed, one which, within the framework of international law, can end the spread of acts of violence, restore harmony and heal the deep wounds which the ongoing conflicts have caused.”
He went on to express his “personal closeness” to the Christian communities of the Middle East saying that their extinction would leave the region “mutilated.” He said: “Here, in your presence, I appeal to the entire international community, as I do to the respective governments involved, to take concrete steps to bring about peace and to protect all those who are victims of war and persecution, driven from their homes and their homeland. In a letter written shortly before Christmas, I sought to express my personal closeness and the promise of my prayers to all the Christian communities of the Middle East. Theirs is a precious testimony of faith and courage, for they play a fundamental role as artisans of peace, reconciliation and development in the civil societies of which they are a part. A Middle East without Christians would be a marred and mutilated Middle East!”
Pope Francis also mentioned Nigeria, particularly when reflecting on terror, and called the kidnapping of girls by Boko Haram an “abominable trade” and a “scourge” which needs to be eradicated.
Emphasising the importance of dialogue in order to achieve peace, Pope Francis reflected on the recent decision by the US and Cuba to initiate a rapprochement. He said: “One example close to my heart of how dialogue can build bridges comes from the recent decision of the United States of America and Cuba to end a lack of communication which has endured for more than half a century, and to initiate a rapprochement for the benefit of their respective citizens.”
The Pope also reflected on his forthcoming trip to the Philippines and Sri Lanka saying: “This evening I will have the joy of setting off once more for Asia, to visit Sri Lanka and the Philippines as a sign of my interest and pastoral concern for the people of that vast continent. To them and to their governments I wish to voice yet again the desire of the Holy See to offer its own contribution of service to the common good, to harmony and social concord. In particular, I express my hope for a resumption of dialogue between the two Koreas, sister countries which speak the same language.”
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