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Full text: Pope Francis’s address to diplomats

By on Friday, 22 March 2013

Pope Francis (Photo: AP)

Pope Francis (Photo: AP)

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Heartfelt thanks to your Dean, Ambassador Jean-Claude Michel, for the kind words that he has addressed to me in the name of everyone present. It gives me joy to welcome you for this exchange of greetings: a simple yet deeply felt ceremony, that somehow seeks to express the Pope’s embrace of the world. Through you, indeed, I encounter your peoples, and thus in a sense I can reach out to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires.

Your presence here in such numbers is a sign that the relations between your countries and the Holy See are fruitful, that they are truly a source of benefit to mankind. That, indeed, is what matters to the Holy See: the good of every person upon this earth! And it is with this understanding that the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry, in the knowledge that he can count on the friendship and affection of the countries you represent, and in the certainty that you share this objective. At the same time, I hope that it will also be an opportunity to begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, some of which were present at the Mass for the beginning of my ministry, or sent messages as a sign of their closeness – for which I am truly grateful.

As you know, there are various reasons why I chose the name of Francis of Assisi, a familiar figure far beyond the borders of Italy and Europe, even among those who do not profess the Catholic faith. One of the first reasons was Francis’ love for the poor. How many poor people there still are in the world! And what great suffering they have to endure! After the example of Francis of Assisi, the Church in every corner of the globe has always tried to care for and look after those who suffer from want, and I think that in many of your countries you can attest to the generous activity of Christians who dedicate themselves to helping the sick, orphans, the homeless and all the marginalised, thus striving to make society more humane and more just.

But there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the “tyranny of relativism”, which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth.

One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff, that is, a builder of bridges with God and between people. My wish is that the dialogue between us should help to build bridges connecting all people, in such a way that everyone can see in the other not an enemy, not a rival, but a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced! My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges. As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other, which today are growing ever closer, more interdependent, more in need of opportunities to meet and to create real spaces of authentic fraternity.

In this work, the role of religion is fundamental. It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam. At the Mass marking the beginning of my ministry, I greatly appreciated the presence of so many civil and religious leaders from the Islamic world. And it is also important to intensify outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity.

Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up. But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another’s detriment.

Dear ambassadors, ladies and gentlemen, thank you again for all the work that you do, alongside the Secretariat of State, to build peace and construct bridges of friendship and fraternity. Through you, I would like to renew to your Governments my thanks for their participation in the celebrations on the occasion of my election, and my heartfelt desire for a fruitful common endeavour. May Almighty God pour out his gifts on each one of you, on your families and on the peoples that you represent. Thank you!

  • Peter

    “There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth”

    This is the nub of the Pope’s message.

    The rich world will continue to be spiritually poor as long as it cares only for itself and ignores the plight of the less fortunate, suffering world with which it shares its human nature.

  • LocutusOP

    There may be doubts about his respect for Church (even sacred) tradition, but there is no doubting the orthodoxy of his speeches.

    This time he didn’t waste the chance to speak of spiritual poverty.

  • Benedict Carter

    On the one hand, there can be no true peace without truth. Okay. But then, the need for “truth” is forgotten and it’s a blah blah on “dialogue” and an appeal to everyone to unite on the basis of Natural Law.

    Am I being carping and mean by saying that proclaiming the Gospel of the True Revealed Faith is absolutely missing from this discourse or at the very least, made secondary to a lowest common denominator (Natural Law) which your modern militant atheist has already rejected by claiming it doesn’t exist?

    If this is what the spiritual fare of this Pontificate consists of (I forgot the bit of environmentalism at the end), I don’t want to read anything more that Pope Francis has to say.

    Where is the uncompromising proclamation of the Gospel; of the Catholic Faith? Do they believe that no-one wants to hear it anymore? Or is it antithetical to their own judgement of “what is possible”? But that is pure politics.

    With this non-Gospel “faith” in Man, the Church is simply and openly betraying Jesus Christ.

  • Benedict Carter

    No, no, no, his speech wasn’t “orthodox”, it wasn’t even specifically Christian.

  • $27740841

    HH Pope Francis keeps referring to himself as the Bishop of Rome, as in – ‘One of the titles of the Bishop of Rome is Pontiff’, and, ‘the Bishop of Rome embarks upon his ministry’. Pope Francis has also done this on previous occasons.
    Any more of this and I might start thinking that we are halfway to ‘Peter the Roman’ already!

  • $27740841

    Are you seriously suggesting that people in the Western world don’t suffer?

  • Peter

    Not at all, but much of the suffering in the West is a self-inflicted suffering due to spiritual poverty.

    So far in the UK I have never experienced famine or poisoned water, or lack of basic medication, or the risk of being kidnapped by people traffickers, nor have I had my home burned down because I’m Catholic or had to flee aerial bombardment or ethnic cleansing and end up with my family in a refugee camp.

  • AlanP

    It is truly ironic that some traditionalists, who place such emphasis on the words of Popes, change their tune when a Pope says things they don’t agree with, or don’t want to hear. Private judgement, indeed!

  • LocutusOP

    Granted, now that you mention it – and having read the speech again – I am a bit surprised he didn’t use the words “Jesus” or “Holy Spirit”.

    Still, consider the crowd. It wasn’t exactly a homily and one perhaps can’t expect straight evangelisation in such a cordial atmosphere.

  • rjt1

    I think you are being carping. This is one speech to diplomats, trying to establish some basis for understanding without compromising what the Church holds dear, and in fact emphasising some of the points that need to be made – about relativism, for instance. His hearers know that he is a Christian. When we speak about truth, we are ultimately talking about God, who is Truth, and referring to the Word, who is the expression of that Truth. The one leads to the other.

    Natural Law is a gift from God as creator so I don’t think it is honouring Him to describe it as a lowest common denominator. It is often obscured, and, for that reason, it necessary for the Church to defend/expound it. The magisterium also has a God-given teaching authority in this area too.

  • $27740841

    People in the West have suffered most or all of these things at one time or another, including people of my parents’ generation. And now that the post-World War II prosperity boom looks like it may be coming to an end, we may suffer them again. Who will you blame then?

  • EuroPax

    Famine = malnutrition through foods that are no longer nutritious or positively harmful leading to disease and obesity
    Poisoned water = pure water itself is hardly socially acceptable we are pressed into ordering a ‘real drink’. Young people grow up drinking expensive fizzy drinks.
    lack of basic medication = natural health cures have been pushed aside and forgotten while generations have been taught by tv advertising how to use expensive and often harmful substitutes from the pharmaceutical companies.
    kidnapped by people traffickers = banks and property developers hold families to ransom and keep them enslaved all their lives with inflated prices for a pile of bricks and mortar only worth a few thousand pounds.
    religious persecution = how easy do you find it to talk about your faith in the office? Do you always wear a cross? How easy not to work on a Sunday? Our schools may no longer exhibit religious icons.
    aerial bombardment = con trails from thousands of aircraft are changing our weather. Noise pollution ruins the lives of thousands of people. Toxic waste from industry poison the air we breath, and the water we drink.
    ethnic cleansing = a reverse racism exists in many parts of the country, there are many ‘no-go’ areas in inner cities, I am nervous saying more – enough said.
    Add up all these infringements on our freedom and then ask who is better off?

  • $27740841

    I don’t think you’re being mean and carping, Benedict. All this talk of dialogue, fraternal brotherhood and reaching out tends to obscure the fact that Christ said, ‘He who is not with me is against me’. What does ‘dialogue’ achieve anyway, with Muslims, atheists or anyone for that matter? Did Christ dialogue?
    Of course it’s all the Traditionalists’ fault for disturbing the feel-good, cosy, sentimental atmosphere that so much talk of dialogue engenders by daring to raise questions about the effectiveness of preaching the Truth of Christ when ‘dialogue’ is the aim. Dialogue must obscure the Truth, which is sometimes harsh, or it is no longer dialogue. Christ, on the other hand, came with a sword.

  • $27740841

    Diplomats have souls too, and thus have the right to hear the Truth from no less an individual than the Pope.

  • AlanP

    Do you think anything is achieved simply by hectoring people, without listening to what they have to say? At the very simplest level, you need to know where somebody is coming from in order to know how to address them. Persuading an atheist is very different from persuading a Muslim, as their beliefs are totally different to start with. And it is common courtesy to listen to what people have to say, if you want them to listen to you. And it is always possible, you know, that you might even learn something.

  • Benedict Carter

    Who spoke about “hectoring”? Only you.

  • rjt1

    Yes, they do. I would also guess a good proportion of those diplomats would be Christians. Perhaps, though, one ought to take what the Pope says on more than just one occasion. Give the man a chance, especially as he is our pastor.