As he does traditionally at the start of a new year, Pope John Paul, this morning in the Regia Hall, welcomed members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See for an exchange of New Year's Greetings. Prior to the Pope's address in French, the dean of the corps, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi from the Republic of San Marino, spoke to the Pope on behalf of all the ambassadors. The Holy See has diplomatic ties with 174 nations, the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and has special relations with the Russian Federation and the Palestinian Liberation Organization. The Holy Father said: "the celebration of Christmas has just reminded us of God's tenderness for mankind, shown in Jesus, and has echoed once again the ever new message from Bethlehem: 'Peace on earth to the People whom God loves'. This message reaches us this year while yet many peoples experience the consequences of armed struggles, suffer poverty, are victims of glaring injustices and pandemics difficult to overcome." Following are excerpts from the Pope's address which focuses on four points: PEACE IS THREATENED EVER MORE "These last months, peace has been severely beaten by the events that have taken place in the Middle East." "The many steps taken by the Holy See to avoid the painful conflict that took place in Iraq are well known. What matters today is that the international community help the Iraqis, freed from a regime which oppressed them, so that they might be able to take up the reins of their country, to consolidate its sovereignty, to democratically determine a political and economic system in conformity with their aspirations and that Iraq will become a credible partner in the international community. "The non-resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian problem continues to be a factor of permanent destabilization for the entire region. The choice of arms, recourse on the one hand to terrorism and on the other to reprisals, humiliating one's adversary, and hateful propaganda, all of these lead nowhere. Only respect for the legitimate aspirations of both sides, a return to the negotiating table and the concrete commitment of the international community are capable of leading to the start of a solution." "Other tensions and conflicts, especially in Africa, can be mentioned. Their impact on the populations is dramatic. To the effects of violence can be added the impoverishment and deterioration of the social fabric, plunging entire peoples into despair." "I wish to pay very special homage this morning to Mgr Michael Courtney, apostolic nuncio in Burundi, who was recently assassinated. As all nuncios and all diplomats he wished above all to serve the cause of peace and dialogue, I salute his courage and his concern for supporting the Burundian people in their march towards peace. . I also wish to honour the memory of Sergio Veira de Mello, the UN's special representative in Iraq, killed during the course of his mission." "And how can we not speak of international terrorism which, in sowing fear, hatred and fanaticism, dishonours all the causes it pretends to serve? Here I simply wish to say that every civilization worthy of this name presupposes the categorical refusal of relations of violence." "More than ever, it is urgent to return to a more effective collective security that gives the United Nations Organization the place and the role that belongs to it. . One thing is certain: war never resolves conflicts among peoples!" FAITH, A FORCE FOR BUILDING PEACE "Even if I speak here in the name of the Catholic Church, I know that the different Christian denominations and the faithful of other religions consider themselves as witnesses of a God of justice and peace. "When one believes that every human person has received from the Creator a unique dignity, that each of us is the subject of inalienable rights and freedoms, that to serve the other person is to make humanity greater, one can easily understand that capital that the communities of believers represent in the building of a more peaceful and peace-loving world." "Everywhere where peace is in doubt, there are Christians to attest in words and deeds that peace is possible. And this is, as you well know, the meaning of the Holy See's interventions in international debates." RELIGION IN SOCIETY: PRESENCE AND DIALOGUE "Communities of believers are present in all societies, waiting thus legitimately to be able to participate in the public dialogue. Unfortunately we can see that it is not always like this. Often the principle of secularity is invoked, in itself legitimate, if it is understood as the distinction between the political community and religions. But distinction does not mean ignorance! Secularity is not laicism!. Church-State relations can and must make room for, on the contrary, a respectful dialogue, the bearer of experiences and fruitful values for the future of a nation. A healthy dialogue between the State and Churches - who are not competitors but partners - can without doubt favour the integral development of the human person and harmony in society. "Difficulty in accepting religion in public spaces is demonstrated in an emblematic way by the recent debate on the Christian roots of Europe. .Without underestimating other religious traditions, it remains that Europe was affirmed at the same time she was evangelized. And one must in all justice recall that not too long ago Christians, in promoting the freedom and rights of man, contributed to the peaceful resolution of authoritarian regimes as well as to the restoration of democracy in central and eastern Europe. CHRISTIANS, ALL TOGETHER WE ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR THE PEACE AND UNITY OF THE HUMAN FAMILY "As you know the ecumenical commitment is one of the focuses of my pontificate. In fact, I am convinced that if Christians were capable of overcoming their divisions the world would have more solidarity." "All together we can contribute efficaciously to respect for life, to safeguarding the dignity of the human person and his inalienable rights, social justice and the preservation of the environment. . One cannot measure enough the pacifying influence that Christians united can have in the midst of their own community as well at the heart of civil society. "If I say this, it is not only to remind all those who claim Christ of the commanding need to resolutely pursue the path that leads to the unity that Christ wishes, but also to indicate to the leaders of society the resources that they can draw from in the Christian patrimony as well as from those who live it. In this domain a concrete example can be cited: educating to peace. In the light of reason and faith, the Church proposes a pedagogy of peace so as to prepare for better times." . Source: VIS
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