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Artisans of peace

Solemnity of the Baptism of the Lord

Dear sisters and brothers in Christ,

As a new year begins, it is customary for the Holy Father to address the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Since this week we have also gone through days of great international tension, I thought I would share with you his fragments of his speech.

“A new year is opening before us; like the cry of a newborn baby, it fills us with joy and hope. I would like that word, “hope”, which is an essential virtue for Christians, to inspire our way of approaching the times that lie ahead.

Certainly, hope has to be realistic. It demands acknowledging the many troubling issues confronting our world and the challenges lurking on the horizon. It requires that problems be called by their name and the courage be found to resolve them. It urges us to keep in mind that our human family is scarred and wounded by a succession of increasingly destructive wars that especially affect the poor and those most vulnerable. Sadly, the new year does not seem to be marked by encouraging signs, as much as by heightened tensions and acts of violence.

Precisely in light of these situations, we cannot give up hope. And hope requires courage. It means acknowledging that evil, suffering and death will not have the last word, and that even the most complex questions can and must be faced and resolved. For hope is “the virtue that inspires us and keeps us moving forward, even when obstacles seem insurmountable” …

A more steadfast and effective engagement on the part of the international community is most urgent in other parts of the Mediterranean area and in the Middle East. I think especially of the pall of silence that risks falling over the war that has devastated Syria over the course of the last decade. It is imperative to devise suitable and far-sighted solutions capable of enabling the beloved Syrian people, exhausted by war, to regain peace and to begin the reconstruction of the country. The Holy See favorably regards every initiative aimed at laying the groundwork for the resolution of the conflict, and once more expresses its gratitude to Jordan and Lebanon for having welcomed and taken responsibility, not without significant sacrifice, for millions of Syrian refugees. Sadly, in addition to the difficulties caused by this welcome, other factors of economic and political uncertainty, in Lebanon and in other states, are provoking tensions among the population, further endangering the fragile stability of the Middle East.

Particularly troubling are the signals coming from the entire region following the heightening of tensions between Iran and the United States, which risk above all compromising the gradual process of rebuilding in Iraq, as well as setting the groundwork for a vaster conflict that all of us would want to avert. I therefore renew my appeal that all the interested parties avoid an escalation of the conflict and “keep alive the flame of dialogue and self-restraint”, in full respect of international law.

My thoughts turn also to Yemen, which is experiencing one of the most serious humanitarian crises of recent history amid general indifference on the part of the international community, and to Libya, which for many years has experienced a situation of conflict aggravated by incursions of extremist groups and by a further intensification of violence in recent days. That situation provides fertile terrain for the scourge of exploitation and human trafficking, carried out by unscrupulous persons who exploit the poverty and suffering of those fleeing situations of conflict or of extreme poverty. Among the latter, many fall prey to genuinely criminal organizations that imprison them in inhumane and degrading conditions and subject them to torture, sexual violence and forms of extortion…

Dialogue – not arms – is the essential way to resolve disputes… The fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris showed how even what seems so solid can be fragile and easily destroyed. The damage suffered by an edifice that is not only precious to Catholics but important for all of France and the whole of humanity, has revived the question of Europe’s historical and cultural values, and its deeper roots. In situations where a framework of values is lacking, it becomes easier to identify elements of division than those of cohesion…

I would like to mention two other anniversaries occurring this year, which might seem to have little to do with today’s meeting. The first is the five-hundredth anniversary of the death of Raphael, the great artist from Urbino, who died in Rome on 6 April 1520. Raphael left us a vast legacy of inestimable beauty. Just as an artist’s genius can blend raw materials and different colors and sounds to create a unique work of art, so diplomacy is called upon to harmonize the distinctive features of the various peoples and states in order to build a world of justice and peace. This is in fact the beautiful masterpiece that all of us want to be able to admire…

One of Raphael’s favorite subjects was the Virgin Mary. To her he dedicated many a canvas that can be admired today in museums throughout the world. For the Catholic Church, this year marks the seventieth anniversary of the proclamation of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary… The Assumption of Mary also invites us to look ahead to the completion of our earthly journey, to that day when justice and peace will be fully reestablished. May we feel encouraged, then, to work diligently, through the diplomacy that is our own imperfect yet always valuable human contribution, to hasten the fulfilment of this longing for peace, in the knowledge that the goal can be attained.”

Fr. Roberto M. Cid