Pope To Diplomats: Persecution Of Christians Must End

"In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and relegated to the margins of public life; in others they suffer violent attacks against their churches and their homes".

Pope Ratzinger stated this while receiving the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See in the Sala Regia for the traditional New Year greetings.

Benedict XVI, like every year, presented an overview of the state of the world, pointing out problems and encouraging signs.

Firstly, He welcomed the Ambassador of Malaysia, a country that was added in 2011, and addressed a thought to the newly born state of Southern Sudan, formed last July, calling for an end to "tensions and clashes."

Economic Crisis
The Pope recalled the "serious and alarming" consequences of the global financial and economic crisis which "not only affects families and businesses in the economically more advanced countries where it originated, creating a situation in which many, especially young people, have felt confused and frustrated in their aspirations for a brighter future," but has "profound impact also on the lives of developing countries."

Benedict XVI invites us not to lose heart and to "resolutely redesign our journey with new forms of commitment. The crisis can and should be a stimulus to reflect on human existence and the importance of its ethical dimension, even before the mechanisms that govern economic life." We must, he explained, "establish new rules that will assure that everyone has the opportunity to live with dignity and to develop their skills for the benefit of the entire community."

Young People And The Arab Spring
Ratzinger then spoke of the "effects of this time of uncertainty" that particularly affects young people. "Their malaise has originated the turmoil which in recent months has invested, at times heavily, the different regions. I am referring primarily to North Africa and the Middle East where young people who, among other things, suffer from poverty and the fear of unemployment and feel that there are no certain prospects, have launched what has become a vast movement that demands reforms and more active participation in political and social life."

According to Benedict XVI, it is still early to make an assessment, but it is clear that "the initial optimism" has "given way to recognition of the difficulties of this moment of transition and change, and it seems clear that the appropriate way to continue the path taken is by recognizing the inalienable dignity of every human being and their fundamental rights."

Respect for the person, Ratzinger said, "must be the focal point of institutions and laws, it must lead to the end of all violence and prevent the risk that the dutiful attention to requests from citizens' and the social solidarity needed are transformed into simple tools for maintaining or regaining power."

The Pope also urged the international community "to dialogue with the those involved with the processes underway, with respect for populations and aware that building a stable and reconciled society, far removed from all unjust discrimination, particularly in terms of religious diversity, is a horizon wider and farther away than that of the elections."

Syria, The Holy Land And Iraq
Benedict XVI expressed "great concern" for those populations of countries where tensions and violence continue, "in particular Syria, where I hope for a speedy end to bloodshed and the beginning of a fruitful dialogue between politicians, favored by the presence of independent observers."

He then mentioned the pious Holy Land, "where tension between Palestinians and Israelis have repercussions on the stability of the entire Middle East." It is necessary, he said, that "those responsible for these two populations make courageous and farsighted decisions in favor of peace." The Pope mentioned his appreciation for the initiative taken by the Kingdom of Jordan for resuming dialogue: "I hope that it will continue in order to reach a lasting peace, guaranteeing the right of those two populations to live in safety in sovereign States inside secure and internationally recognized border." And in this case as well, has asked the international community to "stimulate their creativity and initiatives to promote this peace process, while respecting the rights of each party."

The Pope then said to follow "with great attention the developments in Iraq, deploring the attacks that have, until recently, caused the loss of many lives, and I encourage its leaders to continue firmly on the road to a full national reconciliation."

Education And Family
Echoing the theme of World Day for Peace, Benedict XVI reiterated that education is "a crucial issue for every generation," reaffirming the need to preserve "educational places."

"One of these is - he said – is first of all the family founded on marriage between a man and a woman. This is not just a social convention, but the basis for all societies. Therefore, policies that are detrimental to the family threaten human dignity and the very future of humanity." The Pope has called for policies that enhance the family. And speaking of opening up to life he expressed his satisfaction with the recent decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union, which "prohibits the patenting of processes related to human embryonic stem cells, as well as the resolution of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, that condemns prenatal selection based on sex."

Looking especially to the Western world, Ratzinger said he was convinced that "we oppose the education of young people and thereby legislative measures for the future of humanity that not only allow, but sometimes even promote, abortion for reasons of convenience or questionable medical reasons."

Religious Freedom And Persecution
Speaking of education, Benedict XVI observed that “an effective education also solicits respect for religious freedom” which “is characterized by an individual dimension, as well as a collective dimension and an institutional dimension”.

Religious freedom is “the first of human rights, because it expresses the most fundamental reality of the person”. A right that “too often, for various reasons, is still limited or mocked”.

The Pope paid tribute to the memory of Pakistani Minister Shahbaz Bhatti, “whose tireless fight for the rights of minorities ended with a tragic death.” He added: “it is not, unfortunately, an isolated case. In many countries, Christians are deprived of fundamental rights and relegated to the margins of public life; in others they suffer violent attacks against their churches and their homes. Sometimes they are forced to abandon the country that they helped to build, because of continuing political tensions and policies that often relegate them a secondary spectators in the life of the country”.

In other parts of the world, Ratzinger said, “there are policies bent on marginalizing the role of religion in social life, as though it were the cause for the intolerance, rather than an appreciable contribution to education in respect of human dignity, justice and peace.” Benedict XVI called the legislative changes "encouraging" signals of religious freedom, “by which the public legal personality of religious minorities has been recognized in Georgia,” as well as the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights “in favor of the presence of crucifixes in Italian classrooms”. A sentence for which Italy worked extensively.

And in saying this the Pope addressed a “special thought” for Italy, “at the end of the 150th anniversary of its political unification.”

Enough With Terrorism
The Pope recalled how last year “religiously motivated terrorism” claimed many victims, “especially in Asia and Africa” and reiterated that religious leaders should be “firmly and forcefully repeating that this is not the true nature of religion. Instead, it is the misrepresentation that contributes to its destruction. Religion cannot be used as an excuse to bypass the rules of justice and law.”

The Forgotten Africa
Benedict XVI recalled the recent visit to Benin, and the path of reconciliation between the various communities and ethnic groups. “It is sad to note”, he added, “that in various countries of that continent this goal is still far away.”

Ratzinger said he was referring, "in particular to the upsurge of violence in Nigeria, as highlighted by the attacks against various churches over Christmas, the aftermath of civil war in Côte d'Ivoire, the continuing instability in the Great Lakes Region and the urgent humanitarian situation in the countries of the Horn of Africa.” And he asked, “once again, that the international community promptly help to find a solution to the crisis that has been going on for years now in Somalia.”

Environmental Protection
Lastly, Benedict XVI returned to one of the recurring themes of his pontificate, emphasizing how education that is “properly understood, can only encourage respect for creation”.

The Pope mentioned “the serious natural disasters in 2011 that hit several areas of Southeast Asia, and the environmental disasters such as the nuclear power plant in Fukushima in Japan”.

Caring for the environment, “the synergy between the fight against poverty and climate change are - he added – important areas for promoting integral human development”. Ratzinger therefore hoped that “after the XVII session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change recently concluded in Durban, the international community must prepare for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio+20”) as an authentic “family of nations” and, therefore, with a great sense of solidarity and responsibility towards present and future generations”.

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