Francis: “Fundamentalist terrorism eliminates God” (source: Vatican Insider 12/1/15)

In his address to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See this morning, Francis mentioned the Paris attacks, he spoke of the “chilling repercussions” of the Syria and Iraq conflicts and called on Muslim leaders to condemn “all fundamentalist and extremist interpretations of religion”. The Pope also criticised a self-centered culture that sees the family as “disposable”

Fundamentalist terrorism “eliminates God himself” and “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.” This was the message Francis sent out this morning to the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See at the traditional address the Holy Father gives at the start of each New Year, an opportunity to reflect on the current situation in the world.

The Pope referred back to the Nativity story, pointing out that Jesus was disposed of right from the start and left out in the cold. “If this is how the Son of God was treated, how much more so is it the case with so many of our brothers and sisters!” Herod’s attitude is emblematic of this. He has all children in Bethlehem killed. “We think immediately of Pakistan, where a month ago, more than a hundred children were slaughtered with unspeakable brutality,” Francis said assuring victims’ families of his prayers.

Francis linked the “culture of rejection” which spawns “violence and death” to “the events reported daily in the news, not least the tragic slayings which took place in Paris a few days ago.” People are seen “as objects” and “losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion”. Speaking about the consequences of this mentality, Francis talked about “a true world war fought piecemeal” in various parts of the world, starting “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.”

Francis then spoke about the Middle East and the intensity of the prayer meeting with Peres and Abu Mazen in the Vatican. He said he that negotiations between the two parties will once more resume, for the sake of ending violence and reaching a solution which can enable Palestinians and Israelis alike to live at last in peace within clearly established and internationally recognized borders, thus implementing the “two state solution”.” He also mentioned the other conflicts in the region which have had “chilling repercussions, due also to the spread of fundamentalist terrorism in Syria and in Iraq. 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,” Francis went on to say, “which also strikes Christians and other ethnic and religious groups in the region, 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. 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!” The Pope urged members of the Muslim community to raise their voices against violence: “In urging the international community not to remain indifferent in the face of this situation, 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.”

Francis recalled the children among the victims of this violence and spoke specifically about Nigeria, “where acts of violence continue to strike indiscriminately and there is a constant increase in the tragic phenomenon of kidnappings, often of young girls carried off to be made objects of trafficking,” “an abominable trade which must not continue!”

Francis continued saying he looks “with concern to the many civil conflicts taking place in other parts of Africa, beginning with Libya, ravaged by a drawn-out internecine war which has caused unspeakable suffering among its people, with grave repercussions for the delicate balances in the region.” He mentioned “the dramatic situation in the Central African Republic” and “the situation in South Sudan and in some areas of Sudan, the Horn of Africa and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where civilian casualties are on the rise and thousands of persons.” Francis called for a “common commitment” from individual governments and the international community to end the fighting and pursue peace and reconciliation in these countries too.

Francis turned his attention to “another horrendous crime, the crime of rape” committed where there is war. “This is a most grave offense against the dignity of women, who are not only violated in body but also in spirit, resulting in a trauma hard to erase and with effects on society as well. Sadly, even apart from situations of war, all too many women even today are victims of violence.”

“Among the lepers of our own day we can count the victims of the new and terrible outbreak of Ebola which, especially in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, has already taken over six thousand lives,” Francis recalled, thanking “those healthcare workers who, alongside men and women religious and volunteers, are caring in every way possible for the sick and their families.”

A key part of his speech was dedicated to immigrants and refugees. “How many persons lose their lives during these cruel journeys, the victims of unscrupulous and greedy thugs?” Then “there is the alarming fact that many immigrants, especially in the Americas, are unaccompanied children, all the more at risk and in need of greater care, attention and protection.” “A change of attitude is needed on our part,” and “adequate legislation to protect the rights of… citizens and to ensure the acceptance of immigrants” need to be enacted.

But, the Pope went on to explain, alongside migrants, there are also many “other “hidden exiles” living in our homes and in our families. I think especially of the elderly, the handicapped and young people.” “Indeed, there is no poverty worse than that which takes away work and the dignity of work, or which turns work into a form of enslavement.”

“Then too, the family itself is not infrequently considered disposable, thanks to the spread of an individualistic and self-centred culture which severs human bonds and leads to a dramatic fall in birth rates, as well as legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole. Among the causes of these realities is a model of globalization which levels out differences and even discards cultures, cutting them off from those factors which shape each people’s identity and constitute a legacy essential to their sound social development.”

To the beloved Italian nation, then, I would like to express my hope that in the continuing climate of social, political and economic uncertainty the Italian people will not yield to apathy or dissension.” Finally, after recalling his trip to Sri Lanka and the Philippines which starts today, Francis expressed his “hope for a resumption of dialogue between the two Koreas” and mentioned the positive experience of dialogue he had in Albania. He also spoke about the thaw in relations between the US and Cuba, “end[ing] a lack of communication which has endured for more than half a century and “initiat[ing] a rapprochement for the benefit of their respective citizens.” “Here I think too,” the Pope said, “of the people of Burkina Faso, who are experiencing a period of significant political and institutional change.” He noted “with pleasure that last March an agreement was signed to end long years of tension in the Philippines” and said he wished “to encourage the efforts made to ensure a stable peace in Colombia, as well as the initiatives taken to restore political and social harmony in Venezuela.”

Francis said he hoped “a definitive agreement may soon be reached between Iran and the 5+1 Group regarding the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and my appreciation of the efforts already made in this regard.” He also expressed his satisfaction at “the intention of the United States to close the Guantanamo detention facilities.”

The Pope concluded his address by quoting Paul VI’s speech to the UN in 1965: “Never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind.”

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