By Francis X. Rocca
Catholic News Service
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis said world peace requires the defense of human dignity from violations such as world hunger, human trafficking and abortion.
The pope made his remarks Jan. 13 in his first annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps, offering a survey of world conflicts and crises he said were caused by "envy, selfishness, rivalry and the thirst for power and money."
Speaking in the Apostolic Palace’s Sala Regia, the vast "royal hall" where popes traditionally received Catholic monarchs, Pope Francis spoke of what he has frequently called a "throwaway culture" exemplified by widespread food waste that leaves children starving or malnourished.
"Unfortunately, what is thrown away is not only food or disposable objects, but often human beings themselves, who are discarded as if they were unnecessary," the pope said. "It is horrifying just to think that there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day; children being used as soldiers, abused and killed in armed conflicts; children turned into merchandise in that terrible form of modern slavery called human trafficking, which is a crime against humanity."
The pope also lamented what he called rising numbers of "broken and troubled families," which he attributed to both moral and material factors: the "weakening sense of belonging so typical of today’s world" as well as the "adverse conditions in which many families are forced to live, even to the point where they lack basic means of subsistence."
Noting the devastation caused by typhoon Haiyan in November, Pope Francis warned against "greedy exploitation of environmental resources," and quoted what he said was a popular adage: "God always forgives, we sometimes forgive, but when nature — creation — is mistreated, she never forgives!"
Most of the pope’s speech was devoted, as usual for the occasion, to geopolitical problems in different regions of the world.
The pope called for an end to the almost three-year old civil war in Syria, voicing hope for upcoming peace talks and praising neighboring Lebanon and Jordan for accepting refugees from the conflict. He also noted what he called "significant progress" in ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program.
Pope Francis lamented the "exodus of Christians from the Middle East and North Africa," as well as violence between Muslims and Christians in Nigeria and the Central African Republic.
Without specifying countries, the pope noted sectarian tensions in Asia, "where growing attitudes of prejudice, for allegedly religious reasons, are tending to deprive Christians of their liberties and to jeopardize civil coexistence."
The pope recalled his July visit to the southern Mediterranean island of Lampedusa, an entry point for immigrants without legal permission to enter Europe, and voiced sympathy with those who, "in the hope of a better life, have undertaken perilous journeys which not infrequently end in tragedy."
"I think in particular of the many migrants from Latin America bound for the United States," he said, "but above all those from Africa and the Middle East who seek refuge in Europe."
After his speech, the pope personally greeted the attending ambassadors and their spouses. The Holy See has full diplomatic relations with 180 nation-states, the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, as well as "relations of a special nature" with the Palestine Liberation Organization.
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