10 January 2022 | Address of His Holiness


Benediction Hall

Dear Ambassadors,
Last year, thanks also to the lessening of the restrictions put in place in 2020, I had
occasion to receive many Heads of State and Governments, as well as various civil
and religious authorities.
Among those many meetings, I would like to mention that of 1 July 2021, devoted
to reflection and prayer for Lebanon. To the beloved Lebanese people, who are
working to find a solution to the economic and political crisis that has gripped the
nation, I wish today to renew my closeness and my prayers. At the same time, I
trust that necessary reforms and the support of the international community will
help the country to persevere in its proper identity as a model of peaceful
coexistence and brotherhood among the different religions.
In the course of 2021, I was also able to resume my Apostolic Journeys. In March, I
had the joy of travelling to Iraq. Providence willed this, as a sign of hope after years
of war and terrorism. The Iraqi people have the right to regain their dignity and to
live in peace. Their religious and cultural roots go back thousands of years:
Mesopotamia is a cradle of civilization; it is from there that God called Abraham to
inaugurate the history of salvation.
In September, I travelled to Budapest for the conclusion of the International
Eucharistic Congress, and thereafter to Slovakia. It was an opportunity for me to
meet with the Catholic faithful and Christians of other confessions, and to dialogue
with the Jewish community. I likewise travelled to Cyprus and Greece, a Journey
that remains vivid in my memory. That visit allowed me to deepen ties with our
Orthodox brothers and to experience the fraternity existing between the various
Christian confessions.
A very moving part of that Journey was my visit to the island of Lesbos, where I
was able to see at first hand the generosity of all those working to provide
hospitality and assistance to migrants, but above all, to see the faces of the many
children and adults who are guests of these centres of hospitality. Their eyes spoke
of the effort of their journey, their fear of an uncertain future, their sorrow for the
loved ones they left behind and their nostalgia for the homeland they were forced
to depart. Before those faces, we cannot be indifferent or hide behind walls and
barbed wires under the pretext of defending security or a style of life. This we
cannot do.
Consequently, I thank all those individuals and governments working to ensure that
migrants are welcomed and protected, and to support their human promotion and
integration in the countries that have received them. I am aware of the difficulties
that some states encounter in the face of a large influx of people. No one can be
asked to do what is impossible for them, yet there is a clear difference between
accepting, albeit in a limited way, and rejecting completely.
There is a need to overcome indifference and to reject the idea that migrants are a
problem for others. The results of this approach are evident in the dehumanization
of those migrants concentrated in hotspots where they end up as easy prey to
organized crime and human traffickers, or engage in desperate attempts to escape
that at times end in death. Sadly, we must also note that migrants are themselves
often turned into a weapon of political blackmail, becoming a sort of “bargaining
commodity” that deprives them of their dignity.
Here I would like to renew my gratitude to the Italian authorities, thanks to whom
several persons were able to come with me to Rome from Cyprus and Greece. This
was a simple yet meaningful gesture. To the Italian people, who suffered greatly at
the beginning of the pandemic, but who have also shown encouraging signs of
recovery, I express my heartfelt hope that they will always maintain their
characteristic spirit of generosity, openness and solidarity.
At the same time, I consider it essential that the European Union arrive at internal
cohesion in handling migration movements, just as it did in dealing with the effects
of the pandemic. There is a need to adopt a coherent and comprehensive system
for coordinating policies on migration and asylum, with a view to sharing
responsibility for the reception of migrants, the review of requests for asylum, and
the redistribution and integration of those who can be accepted. The capacity to
negotiate and discover shared solutions is one of the strong points of the European
Union; it represents a sound model for a farsighted approach to the global
challenges before us.
Nonetheless, the migration issue does not regard Europe alone, even though it is
especially affected by waves of migrants coming from Africa and from Asia. In
recent years, we have witnessed, among others, an exodus of Syrian refugees and,
more recently, the many people who have fled Afghanistan. Nor can we overlook
the massive migration movements on the American continent, which press upon the
border between Mexico and the United States of America. Many of those migrants
are Haitians fleeing the tragedies that have struck their country in recent years.
The issue of migration, together with the pandemic and climate change, has clearly
demonstrated that we cannot be saved alone and by ourselves: the great
challenges of our time are all global. It is thus troubling that, alongside the greater
interconnection of problems, we are seeing a growing fragmentation of solutions. It
is not uncommon to encounter unwillingness to open windows of dialogue and
spaces of fraternity; this only fuels further tensions and divisions, as well as a
generalized feeling of uncertainty and instability. What is needed instead is a
recovery of our sense of shared identity as a single human family. The alternative
can only be growing isolation, marked by a reciprocal rejection and refusal that
further endangers multilateralism, the diplomatic style that has characterized
international relations from the end of the Second World War to the present time.
For some time now, multilateral diplomacy has been experiencing a crisis of trust,
due to the reduced credibility of social, governmental and intergovernmental
systems. Important resolutions, declarations and decisions are frequently made
without a genuine process of negotiation in which all countries have a say. This
imbalance, now dramatically evident, has generated disaffection towards
international agencies on the part of many states; it also weakens the multilateral
system as a whole, with the result that it becomes less and less effective in
confronting global challenges.
The diminished effectiveness of many international organizations is also due to their
members entertaining differing visions of the ends they wish to pursue. Not
infrequently, the centre of interest has shifted to matters that by their divisive
nature do not strictly belong to the aims of the organization. As a result, agendas
are increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of
humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples. As I
have stated on other occasions, I consider this a form of ideological colonization,
one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of
the “cancel culture” invading many circles and public institutions. Under the guise of
defending diversity, it ends up cancelling all sense of identity, with the risk of
silencing positions that defend a respectful and balanced understanding of various
sensibilities. A kind of dangerous “one-track thinking” [pensée unique] is taking
shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of
present-day categories, whereas any historical situation must be interpreted in the
light of a hermeneutics of that particular time, not that of today.
Multilateral diplomacy is thus called to be truly inclusive, not canceling but
cherishing the differences and sensibilities that have historically marked various
peoples. In this way, it will regain credibility and effectiveness in facing the
challenges to come, which will require humanity to join together as one great family
that, starting from different viewpoints, should prove capable of finding common
solutions for the good of all. This calls for reciprocal trust and willingness to
dialogue; it entails “listening to one another, sharing different views, coming to
agreement and walking together”. Indeed, “dialogue is the best way to realize what
ought always to be affirmed and respected apart from any ephemeral consensus”.
Nor should we overlook “the existence of certain enduring values”. Those are not
always easy to discern, but their acceptance “makes for a robust and solid social
ethics. Once those fundamental values are adopted through dialogue and
consensus, we realize that they rise above consensus”. Here I wish to mention in
particular the right to life, from conception to its natural end, and the right to
religious freedom.
In this regard, in recent years we have seen a growing collective awareness of the
urgent need to care for our common home, which is suffering from the constant
and indiscriminate exploitation of its resources. Here I think especially of the
Philippines, struck in these last weeks by a devastating typhoon, and of other
nations in the Pacific, made vulnerable by the negative effects of climate change,
which endanger the lives of their inhabitants, most of whom are dependent on
agriculture, fishing and natural resources.
Precisely this realization should impel the international community as a whole to
discover and implement common solutions. None may consider themselves exempt
from this effort, since all of us are involved and affected in equal measure. At the
recent COP26 in Glasgow, several steps were made in the right direction, even
though they were rather weak in light of the gravity of the problem to be faced. The
road to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is complex and appears to be
long, while the time at our disposal is shorter and shorter. Much still remains to be
done, and so 2022 will be another fundamental year for verifying to what extent
and in what ways the decisions taken in Glasgow can and should be further
consolidated in view of COP27, planned for Egypt next November. […]