Pope urges world not to be indifferent to humanity’s woes

The Christmas tree shines in St. Peter's Square at the Vatican Dec. 5, 2019. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

VATICAN—Pope Francis is calling on the world not to close its eyes or look the other way in the face of the many woes, pain and wounds afflicting mankind but to unite and work to build a peaceful world, saying  “what really counts in life is love.”

The pope issued the video message at the end of his meeting with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, in the Vatican.

“It is good that this meeting of ours takes place in the days leading up to Christmas,” Pope Francis said in the presence of Guterres. “These are days when our eyes are turned to heaven to entrust to God the people and situations we hold most dear. In this gaze we recognize ourselves as children of one Father, brothers and sisters.”

“We cannot and we must not look the other way in the face of injustice, inequality, the scandal of hunger in the world, of poverty, of children who die because they lack water, food and necessary healthcare,” the pope said.

He recalled men and women who are forced to leave their countries because of conflicts, violence, poverty or climate change and who often meet a sad fate. He urged the world to unite in the fight against every kind of abuse of children and overcome indifference in the face of attacks against human dignity and human life, including the unborn.

“We cannot, we must not look the other way when believers of various faiths are persecuted in different parts of the world,” he said. “The use of religion to incite hatred, violence, oppression, extremism and blind fanaticism, as well as to force people into exile and marginalization, cries out for vengeance before God.”

Pope Francis also denounced the arms race and nuclear rearmament, saying, they also cry out for vengeance before God.

“The use as well as possession of nuclear weapons is also immoral,” he said. “Even the mere danger of an accident represents a grim threat to humanity.”

The Holy Father urges that the world not be indifferent to the many wars that continue to be fought and which kill so many innocent people.

In order to build a peaceful world, he said, it is indispensable that there be confidence in dialogue between people and between nations, in multilateralism, in the role of international organisations and in diplomacy as a tool to strengthen understanding and agreement.

In his video message, Pope Francis also addressed the care of the created world, urging all to “take care of our land, which, generation after generation, has been entrusted to our custody by God so that we may cultivate it and hand it over to our children.”

He stressed the urgency and need for a commitment to reduce polluting emissions and to an integral ecology, saying, “Let us do something before it is too late!”

The Holy Father also called on the international community to listen to young people who “help us to become aware of what is happening in the world today and ask us to be peacemakers and builders, together and not alone, of a more human and just civilization.”

Pope Francis concluded his video message with a reflection on Christmas, saying, “In all its genuine simplicity, Christmas reminds us that what really counts in life is love.”

After Pope Francis spoke, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also delivered a video message, highlighting the “clear moral voice” of the pontiff on issues that are at the very heart of the United Nations mandate.

By Robin Gomes/Vatican News

Below is the full text of the Secretary-General’s comments:

“Your Holiness, thank you for your very warm welcome.

You are a messenger for hope and humanity — for reducing human suffering and promoting human dignity.  Your clear moral voice shines through — whether you are speaking out on the plight of the most vulnerable, including refugees and migrants … confronting poverty and inequalities … appealing for disarmament… building bridges between communities … and, of course, highlighting the climate emergency through your historic encyclical, ‘Laudato Si’, and so many other vital efforts.

These messages coincide with the core values of the United Nations Charter — namely to reaffirm the dignity and worth of the human person.  To promote love of people and care for our planet. To uphold our common humanity and protect our common home. Our world needs that more than ever.

Coming to Rome from the COP25 in Madrid, I call on all countries around the globe to commit to carbon neutrality by 2050, in line with what the scientific community tells us is necessary to rescue the planet.

Your Holiness, I am grateful for your exceptional global engagement and strong support for the work of the United Nations, including your memorable visit to UN headquarters in 2015, as the world reached agreement on the Sustainable Development Goals, our blueprint for a fair globalization.

Our meeting is especially meaningful during this Christmas season. This is a time of peace and goodwill and I am sad to witness Christian communities — including some of the world’s oldest — unable to celebrate Christmas in safety.

Tragically we see Jews being murdered in synagogues, their gravestones defaced with swastikas; Muslims gunned down in mosques, their religious sites vandalized; Christians killed at prayers, their churches torched. We need to do more to promote mutual understanding and tackle rising hatred.

Your Holiness, I want to express my deep appreciation for your extraordinary service in promoting interfaith relations — including your landmark declaration with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar on ‘human fraternity for world peace and living together’.

This declaration is extremely important when we see such dramatic attacks on religious freedom and the lives of believers. The United Nations has launched a Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites and a strategy to combat hate speech. In these turbulent and trying times, we must stand together for peace and harmony.

That is the spirit of this season. And it is reflected in your vision, guidance and example. My deepest thanks to you, your Holiness, and my best wishes, to all those celebrating, for a Christmas in peace and a blessed new year.”