The Holy Father

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis to the General Assembly of the United Nations 25 September 2020

Address of His Holiness Pope Francis
to the Seventy-fifth Meeting of the General Assembly
of the United Nations

25 September 2020


“The Future We Want, the United Nations We Need:
Reaffirming our Joint Commitment through Multilateralism”


Mr. President,
Peace be with all of you!

I offer cordial greetings to you, Mr President, and to all the Delegations taking part in this significant Seventy-fifth Session of the United Nations’ General Assembly. In particular, I greet the Secretary General, Mr António Guterres, the participating Heads of State and Government, and all those who are following the General Debate.

The seventy-fifth anniversary of the United Nations offers me a fitting occasion to express once again the Holy See’s desire that this Organization increasingly serve as a sign of unity between States and an instrument of service to the entire human family.[1]

In these days, our world continues to be impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic, which has led to the loss of so many lives. This crisis is changing our way of life, calling into question our economic, health and social systems, and exposing our human fragility.

The pandemic, indeed, calls us “to seize this time of trial as a time of choosing, a time to choose what matters and what passes away, a time to separate what is necessary from what is not”.[2] It can represent a concrete opportunity for conversion, for transformation, for rethinking our way of life and our economic and social systems, which are widening the gap between rich and poor based on an unjust distribution of resources. On the other hand, the pandemic can be the occasion for a “defensive retreat” into greater individualism and elitism.

We are faced, then, with a choice between two possible paths. One path leads to the consolidation of multilateralism as the expression of a renewed sense of global co-responsibility, a solidarity grounded in justice and the attainment of peace and unity within the human family, which is God’s plan for our world. The other path emphasizes self-sufficiency, nationalism, protectionism, individualism and isolation; it excludes the poor, the vulnerable and those dwelling on the peripheries of life. That path would certainly be detrimental to the whole community, causing self-inflicted wounds on everyone. It must not prevail.

The pandemic has highlighted the urgent need to promote public health and to make every person’s right to basic medical care a reality.[3] For this reason, I renew my appeal to political leaders and the private sector to spare no effort to ensure access to Covid-19 vaccines and to the essential technologies needed to care for the sick. If anyone should be given preference, let it be the poorest, the most vulnerable, those who so often experience discrimination because they have neither power nor economic resources.

The current crisis has also demonstrated that solidarity must not be an empty word or promise. It has also shown us the importance of avoiding every temptation to exceed our natural limits. “We have the freedom needed to limit and direct technology; we can put it at the service of another type of progress, one which is healthier, more human, more social, more integral”.[4] This also needs to be taken into careful consideration in discussions on the complex issue of artificial intelligence (AI).

Along these same lines, I think of the effects of the pandemic on employment, a sector already destabilized by a labour market driven by increasing uncertainty and widespread robotization. There is an urgent need to find new forms of work truly capable of fulfilling our human potential and affirming our dignity. In order to ensure dignified employment, there must be a change in the prevailing economic paradigm, which seeks only to expand companies’ profits. Offering jobs to more people should be one of the main objectives of every business, one of the criteria for the success of productive activity. Technological progress is valuable and necessary, provided that it serves to make people’s work more dignified and safe, less burdensome and stressful.

All this calls for a change of direction. To achieve this, we already possess the necessary cultural and technological resources, and social awareness. This change of direction will require, however, a more robust ethical framework capable of overcoming “today’s widespread and quietly growing culture of waste”.[5]

At the origin of this “throwaway culture” is a gross lack of respect for human dignity, the promotion of ideologies with reductive understandings of the human person, a denial of the universality of fundamental human rights, and a craving for absolute power and control that is widespread in today’s society. Let us name this for what it is: an attack against humanity itself.

It is in fact painful to see the number of fundamental human rights that in our day continue to be violated with impunity. The list of such violations is indeed lengthy, and offers us a frightening picture of a humanity abused, wounded, deprived of dignity, freedom and hope for the future. As part of this picture, religious believers continue to endure every kind of persecution, including genocide, because of their beliefs. We Christians too are victims of this: how many of our brothers and sisters throughout the world are suffering, forced at times to flee from their ancestral lands, cut off from their rich history and culture.

We should also admit that humanitarian crises have become the status quo, in which people’s right to life, liberty and personal security are not protected. Indeed, as shown by conflicts worldwide, the use of explosive weapons, especially in populated areas, is having a dramatic long-term humanitarian impact. Conventional weapons are becoming less and less “conventional” and more and more “weapons of mass destruction”, wreaking havoc on cities, schools, hospitals, religious sites, infrastructures and basic services needed by the population.

What is more, great numbers of people are being forced to leave their homes. Refugees, migrants and the internally displaced frequently find themselves abandoned in their countries of origin, transit and destination, deprived of any chance to better their situation in life and that of their families. Worse still, thousands are intercepted at sea and forcibly returned to detention camps, where they meet with torture and abuse. Many of these become victims of human trafficking, sexual slavery or forced labour, exploited in degrading jobs and denied a just wage. This is intolerable, yet intentionally ignored by many!

The numerous and significant international efforts to respond to these crises begin with great promise – here I think of the two Global Compacts on Refugees and on Migration – yet many lack the necessary political support to prove successful. Others fail because individual states shirk their responsibilities and commitments. All the same, the current crisis offers an opportunity for the United Nations to help build a more fraternal and compassionate society.

This includes reconsidering the role of economic and financial institutions, like that of Bretton-Woods, which must respond to the rapidly growing inequality between the super-rich and the permanently poor. An economic model that encourages subsidiarity, supports economic development at the local level and invests in education and infrastructure benefiting local communities, will lay the foundation not only for economic success but also for the renewal of the larger community and nation. Here I would renew my appeal that “in light of the present circumstances… all nations be enabled to meet the greatest needs of the moment through the reduction, if not the forgiveness, of the debt burdening the balance sheets of the poorest nations”.[6]

The international community ought to make every effort to put an end to economic injustices. “When multilateral credit organizations provide advice to various nations, it is important to keep in mind the lofty concepts of fiscal justice, the public budgets responsible for their indebtedness and, above all, an effective promotion of the poorest, which makes them protagonists in the social network”.[7] We have a responsibility to offer development assistance to poor nations and debt relief to highly indebted nations.[8]

“A new ethics presupposes being aware of the need for everyone to work together to close tax shelters, avoid evasions and money laundering that rob society, as well as to speak to nations about the importance of defending justice and the common good over the interests of the most powerful companies and multinationals”.[9] Now is a fitting time to renew the architecture of international finance.[10]

Mr. President,

Five years ago, I had the opportunity to address the General Assembly in person on its seventieth anniversary. My visit took place at a time marked by truly dynamic multilateralism. It was a moment of great hope and promise for the international community, on the eve of the adoption of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Some months later, the Paris Agreement on Climate Change was also adopted.

Yet we must honestly admit that, even though some progress has been made, the international community has shown itself largely incapable of honouring the promises made five years ago. I can only reiterate that “we must avoid every temptation to fall into a declarationist nominalism which would assuage our consciences. We need to ensure that our institutions are truly effective in the struggle against all these scourges”.[11]

I think of the alarming situation in the Amazon and its indigenous peoples. Here we see that the environmental crisis is inseparably linked to a social crisis, and that caring for the environment calls for an integrated approach to combatting poverty and exclusion.[12]

To be sure, the growth of an integral ecological sensitivity and the desire for action is a positive step. “We must not place the burden on the next generations to take on the problems caused by the previous ones… We must seriously ask ourselves if there is the political will to allocate with honesty, responsibility and courage, more human, financial and technological resources to mitigate the negative effects of climate change, as well as to help the poorest and most vulnerable populations who suffer from them the most”.[13]

The Holy See will continue to play its part. As a concrete sign of the Holy See’s commitment to care for our common home, I recently ratified the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol.[14]

Mr. President,

We cannot fail to acknowledge the devastating effects of the Covid-19 crisis on children, including unaccompanied young migrants and refugees. Violence against children, including the horrible scourge of child abuse and pornography, has also dramatically increased.

Millions of children are presently unable to return to school. In many parts of the world, this situation risks leading to an increase in child labour, exploitation, abuse and malnutrition. Sad to say, some countries and international institutions are also promoting abortion as one of the so-called “essential services” provided in the humanitarian response to the pandemic. It is troubling to see how simple and convenient it has become for some to deny the existence of a human life as a solution to problems that can and must be solved for both the mother and her unborn child.

I urge civil authorities to be especially attentive to children who are denied their fundamental rights and dignity, particularly their right to life and to schooling. I cannot help but think of the appeal of that courageous young woman, Malala Yousafzai, who speaking five years ago in the General Assembly, reminded us that “one child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world”.

The first teachers of every child are his or her mother and father, the family, which the Universal Declaration of Human Rights describes as the “natural and fundamental group unit of society”.[15] All too often, the family is the victim of forms of ideological colonialism that weaken it and end up producing in many of its members, especially the most vulnerable, the young and the elderly, a feeling of being orphaned and lacking roots. The breakdown of the family is reflected in the social fragmentation that hinders our efforts to confront common enemies. It is time that we reassess and recommit ourselves to achieving our goals.

One such goal is the advancement of women. This year marks the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Beijing Conference on Women. At every level of society, women now play an important role, offering their singular contribution and courageously promoting the common good. Many women, however, continue to be left behind: victims of slavery, trafficking, violence, exploitation and degrading treatment. To them, and to those who forced to live apart from their families, I express my fraternal closeness. At the same time, I appeal once more for greater determination and commitment in the fight against those heinous practices that debase not only women, but all humanity, which by its silence and lack of effective action becomes an accomplice in them.

Mr. President,

We must ask ourselves if the principal threats to peace and security – poverty, epidemics, terrorism and so many others – can be effectively be countered when the arms race, including nuclear weapons, continues to squander precious resources that could better be used to benefit the integral development of peoples and protect the natural environment.

We need to break with the present climate of distrust. At present, we are witnessing an erosion of multilateralism, which is all the more serious in light of the development of new forms of military technology,[16] such as lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS) which irreversibly alter the nature of warfare, detaching it further from human agency.

We need to dismantle the perverse logic that links personal and national security to the possession of weaponry. This logic serves only to increase the profits of the arms industry, while fostering a climate of distrust and fear between persons and peoples.

Nuclear deterrence, in particular, creates an ethos of fear based on the threat of mutual annihilation; in this way, it ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing dialogue.[17] That is why it is so important to support the principal international legal instruments on nuclear disarmament, non-proliferation and prohibition. The Holy See trusts that the forthcoming Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) will result in concrete action in accordance with our joint intention “to achieve at the earliest possible date the cessation of the nuclear arms race and to undertake effective measures in the direction of nuclear disarmament”.[18]

In addition, our strife-ridden world needs the United Nations to become an ever more effective international workshop for peace. This means that the members of the Security Council, especially the Permanent Members, must act with greater unity and determination. In this regard, the recent adoption of a global cease-fire during the present crisis is a very noble step, one that demands good will on the part of all for its continued implementation. Here I would also reiterate the importance of relaxing international sanctions that make it difficult for states to provide adequate support for their citizens.

Mr. President,

We never emerge from a crisis just as we were. We come out either better or worse. This is why, at this critical juncture, it is our duty to rethink the future of our common home and our common project. A complex task lies before us, one that requires a frank and coherent dialogue aimed at strengthening multilateralism and cooperation between states. The present crisis has further demonstrated the limits of our self-sufficiency as well as our common vulnerability. It has forced us to think clearly about how we want to emerge from this: either better or worse.

The pandemic has shown us that we cannot live without one another, or worse still, pitted against one another. The United Nations was established to bring nations together, to be a bridge between peoples. Let us make good use of this institution in order to transform the challenge that lies before us into an opportunity to build together, once more, the future we all desire.

God bless you all!

Thank you, Mr. President.

[1] Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 25 September 2015; BENEDICT XVI, Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations, 18 April 2008.

[2] Meditation during the Extraordinary Moment of Prayer in the Time of Pandemic, 27 March 2020.

[3] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 25.1.

[4] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 112.

[5] Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 25 September 2015.

[6] Urbi et Orbi Message, 12 April 2020.

[7] Address to the Participants in the Seminar “New Forms of Solidarity”, 5 February 2020.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Cf. ibid.

[11] Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization, 25 September 2015.

[12] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 139.

[13] Message to the Participants in the Twenty-Fifth Session of the Conference of States Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, 1 December 2019.

[14] Message to the Thirty-first Meeting of the Parties to the Montreal Protocol, 7 November 2019.

[15] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 16.3.

[16] Address on Nuclear Weapons, Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park, Nagasaki, 24 November 2019.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, Preamble.



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You shall thus hallow the fiftieth year
and you shall proclaim a release throughout the land
to all its inhabitants.
It shall be a jubilee for you.

(Lev 25:10)
Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Each year, particularly since the publication of the Encyclical Laudato Si’ (LS, 24 may 2015), the first day of September is celebrated by the Christian family as the World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation and the beginning of the Season of Creation, which concludes on the feast of Saint Francis of Assisi on the fourth of October. During this period, Christians worldwide renew their faith in the God of creation and join in prayer and work for the care of our common home.

I am very pleased that the theme chosen by the ecumenical family for the celebration of the 2020 Season of Creation is Jubilee for the Earth, precisely in this year that marks the fiftieth anniversary of Earth Day. In the Holy Scriptures, a Jubilee is a sacred time to remember, return, rest, restore, and rejoice.

1. A Time to Remember

We are invited to remember above all that creation’s ultimate destiny is to enter into God’s eternal Sabbath. This journey, however, takes place in time, spanning the seven-day rhythm of the week, the cycle of seven years, and the great Jubilee Year that comes at the end of the seven Sabbath years.

A Jubilee is indeed a time of grace to remember creation’s original vocation to exist and flourish as a community of love. We exist only in relationships: with God the Creator, with our brothers and sisters as members of a common family, and with all of God’s creatures within our common home. “Everything is related, and we human beings are united as brothers and sisters on a wonderful pilgrimage, woven together by the love God has for each of his creatures and which also unites us in fond affection with brother sun, sister moon, brother river and mother earth” (LS, 92)

A Jubilee, then, is a time of remembrance, in which we cherish the memory of our inter-relational existence. We need constantly to remember that “everything is interconnected, and that genuine care for our own lives and our relationships with nature is inseparable from fraternity, justice and faithfulness to others” (LS, 70).

2. A Time to Return

A Jubilee is a time to turn back in repentance. We have broken the bonds of our relationship with the Creator, with our fellow human beings, and with the rest of creation. We need to heal the damaged relationships that are essential to supporting us and the entire fabric of life.

A Jubilee is a time to return to God our loving Creator. We cannot live in harmony with creation if we are not at peace with the Creator who is the source and origin of all things. As Pope Benedict observed, “the brutal consumption of creation begins where God is missing, where matter has become simply material for us, where we ourselves are the ultimate measure, where everything is simply our property” (Meeting with Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians of the Diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone, 6 August 2008).

The Jubilee season calls us to think once again of our fellow human beings, especially the poor and the most vulnerable. We are asked to re-appropriate God’s original and loving plan of creation as a common heritage, a banquet which all of our brothers and sisters share in a spirit of conviviality, not in competitive scramble but in joyful fellowship, supporting and protecting one another. A Jubilee is a time for setting free the oppressed and all those shackled in the fetters of various forms of modern slavery, including trafficking in persons and child labour.

We also need once more to listen to the land itself, which Scripture calls adamah, the soil from which man, Adam, was made. Today we hear the voice of creation admonishing us to return to our rightful place in the natural created order – to remember that we are part of this interconnected web of life, not its masters. The disintegration of biodiversity, spiralling climate disasters, and unjust impact of the current pandemic on the poor and vulnerable: all these are a wakeup call in the face of our rampant greed and consumption.

Particularly during this Season of Creation, may we be attentive to the rhythms of this created world. For the world was made to communicate the glory of God, to help us to discover in its beauty the Lord of all, and to return to him (cf. SAINT BONAVENTURE, In II Sent., I, 2, 2, q. 1, conclusion; Breviloquium, II, 5.11). The earth from which we were made is thus a place of prayer and meditation. “Let us awaken our God-given aesthetic and contemplative sense” (Querida Amazonia, 56). The capacity to wonder and to contemplate is something that we can learn especially from our indigenous brothers and sisters, who live in harmony with the land and its multiple forms of life.

3. A Time to Rest

In his wisdom, God set aside the Sabbath so that the land and its inhabitants could rest and be renewed. These days, however, our way of life is pushing the planet beyond its limits. Our constant demand for growth and an endless cycle of production and consumption are exhausting the natural world. Forests are leached, topsoil erodes, fields fail, deserts advance, seas acidify and storms intensify. Creation is groaning!

During the Jubilee, God’s people were invited to rest from their usual labour and to let the land heal and the earth repair itself, as individuals consumed less than usual. Today we need to find just and sustainable ways of living that can give the Earth the rest it requires, ways that satisfy everyone with a sufficiency, without destroying the ecosystems that sustain us.

In some ways, the current pandemic has led us to rediscover simpler and sustainable lifestyles. The crisis, in a sense, has given us a chance to develop new ways of living. Already we can see how the earth can recover if we allow it to rest: the air becomes cleaner, the waters clearer, and animals have returned to many places from where they had previously disappeared. The pandemic has brought us to a crossroads. We must use this decisive moment to end our superfluous and destructive goals and activities, and to cultivate values, connections and activities that are life-giving. We must examine our habits of energy usage, consumption, transportation, and diet. We must eliminate the superfluous and destructive aspects of our economies, and nurture life-giving ways to trade, produce, and transport goods.

4. A Time to Restore

A Jubilee is a time to restore the original harmony of creation and to heal strained human relationships.

It invites us to re-establish equitable societal relationships, restoring their freedom and goods to all and forgiving one another’s debts. We should not forget the historic exploitation of the global South that has created an enormous ecological debt, due mainly to resource plundering and excessive use of common environmental space for waste disposal. It is a time for restorative justice. In this context, I repeat my call for the cancellation of the debt of the most vulnerable countries, in recognition of the severe impacts of the medical, social and economic crises they face as a result of Covid-19. We also need to ensure that the recovery packages being developed and deployed at global, regional and national levels must be regeneration packages. Policy, legislation and investment must be focused on the common good and guarantee that global social and environmental goals are met.

We also need to restore the land. Climate restoration is of utmost importance, since we are in the midst of a climate emergency. We are running out of time, as our children and young people have reminded us. We need to do everything in our capacity to limit global average temperature rise under the threshold of 1.5°C enshrined in the Paris Climate Agreement, for going beyond that will prove catastrophic, especially for poor communities around the world. We need to stand up for intra-generational and inter-generational solidarity at this critical moment. I invite all nations to adopt more ambitious national targets to reduce emissions, in preparation for the important Climate Summit (COP 26) in Glasgow in the United Kingdom.

Biodiversity restoration is also crucially important in the context of unprecedented loss of species and degradation of ecosystems. We need to support the U.N. call to safeguard 30% of the earth as protected habitats by 2030 in order to stem the alarming rate of biodiversity loss. I urge the international community to work together to guarantee that the Summit on Biodiversity (COP 15) in Kunming, China becomes a turning point in restoring the earth to be a home of life in abundance, as willed by the Creator.

We must restore with justice in mind, ensuring that those who have lived on the land for generations can regain control over its usage. Indigenous communities must be protected from companies, particularly multinational companies, that “operate in less developed countries in ways they could never do at home” (LS, 51), through the destructive extraction of fossil fuels, minerals, timber and agroindustrial products. This corporate misconduct is a “new version of colonialism” (SAINT JOHN PAUL II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, 27 April 2001, cited in Querida Amazonia, 14), one that shamefully exploits poorer countries and communities desperately seeking economic development. We need to strengthen national and international legislation to regulate the activities of extractive companies and ensure access to justice for those affected.

5. A Time to Rejoice

In the biblical tradition, a Jubilee was a joyous occasion, inaugurated by a trumpet blast resounding throughout the land. We are aware that the cries of the earth and of the poor have become even louder and more painful in recent years. At the same time, we also witness how the Holy Spirit is inspiring individuals and communities around the world to come together to rebuild our common home and defend the most vulnerable in our midst. We see the gradual emergence of a great mobilization of people from below and from the peripheries who are generously working for the protection of the land and of the poor. We rejoice to see how young people and communities, particularly indigenous communities, are on the frontlines in responding to the ecological crisis. They are calling for a Jubilee for the earth and a new beginning, aware that “things can change” (LS, 13).

We also rejoice to see how the Laudato Si’ Special Anniversary Year is inspiring many initiatives at local and global levels for the care of our common home and the poor. This year should lead to long-term action plans to practise integral ecology in our families, parishes and dioceses, religious orders, our schools and universities, our healthcare, business and agricultural institutions, and many others as well.

We rejoice too that faith communities are coming together to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world. We are particularly happy that the Season of Creation is becoming a truly ecumenical initiative. Let us continue to grow in the awareness that we all live in a common home as members of a single family.

Let us all rejoice that our loving Creator sustains our humble efforts to care for the earth, which is also God’s home where his Word “became flesh and lived among us” (Jn 1:14) and which is constantly being renewed by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

“Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth” (cf. Ps 104:30).

Rome, Saint John Lateran, 1 September 2020



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POPE FRANCIS. GENERAL AUDIENCE. The pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. 12.08.2020



Library of the Apostolic Palace
Wednesday, 12 August 2020


Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

The pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including creation, we cannot heal the world.

Commendable is the effort of so many people who have been offering evidence of human and Christian love for neighbour, dedicating themselves to the sick even at the risk of their own health. They are heroes! However, the coronavirus is not the only disease to be fought, but rather, the pandemic has shed light on broader social ills. One of these is a distorted view of the person, a perspective that ignores the dignity and relational of the person. (la sua refers to person, not his or her) At times we look at others as objects, to be used and discarded. In reality this type of perspective blinds and fosters an individualistic and aggressive throw-away culture, which transforms the human being into a consumer good (cf. Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, 53; Encyclical Laudato Si’, [LS], 22).

In the light of faith we know, instead, that God looks at a man and a woman in another manner. He created us not as objects but as people loved and capable of loving; He has created us in His image and likeness (see Gen 1:27). In this way He has given us a unique dignity, calling us to live in communion with Him, in communion with our sisters and our brothers, with respect for all creation. In communion, in harmony, we might say. Creation is the harmony in which we are called to live. And in this communion, in this harmony that is communion, God gives us the ability to procreate and safeguard life (see Gen 1:28-29), to till and keep the land (see Gen 2:15; LS, 67). It is clear that one cannot procreate and safeguard life without harmony; it will be destroyed.

We have an example of that individualistic perspective, that which is not harmony, in the Gospels, in the request made to Jesus by the mother of the disciples James and John (cf. Mt 20:20-38). She wanted her sons to sit at the right and the left of the new king. But Jesus proposes another type of vision: that of service and of giving one’s life for others, and He confirms it by immediately restoring sight to two blind men and making them His disciples (see Mt 20:29-34). Seeking to climb in life, to be superior to others, destroys harmony. It is the logic of dominion, of dominating others. Harmony is something else: it is service.

Therefore, let us ask the Lord to give us eyes attentive to our brothers and sisters, especially those who are suffering. As Jesus’s disciples we do not want to be indifferent or individualistic. These are the two unpleasant attitudes that run counter to harmony. Indifferent: I look the other way. Individualist: looking out only for one’s own interest. The harmony created by God asks that we look at others, the needs of others, the problems of others, in communion. We want to recognise the human dignity in every person, whatever his or her race, language or condition might be. Harmony leads you to recognise human dignity, that harmony created by God, with humanity at the centre.

The Second Vatican Council emphasises that this dignity is inalienable, because it “was created ‘to the image of God’” (Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 12). It lies at the foundation of all social life and determines its operative principles. In modern culture, the closest reference to the principle of the inalienable dignity of the person is the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which Saint John Paul II defined as a “milestone on the long and difficult path of the human race”, [1] and as “one of the highest expressions of the human conscience”. [2] Rights are not only individual, but also social; they are of peoples, nations. [3] The human being, indeed, in his or her personal dignity, is a social being, created in the image of God, One and Triune. We are social beings; we need to live in this social harmony, but when there is selfishness, our outlook does not reach others, the community, but focuses on ourselves, and this makes us ugly, nasty and selfish, destroying harmony.

This renewed awareness of the dignity of every human being has serious social, economic and political implications. Looking at our brother and sister and the whole of creation as a gift received from the love of the Father inspires attentive behaviour, care and wonder. In this way the believer, contemplating his or her neighbour as a brother or sister, and not as a stranger, looks at him or her compassionately and empathetically, not contemptuously or with hostility. Contemplating the world in the light of faith, with the help of grace, we strive to develop our creativity and enthusiasm in order to resolve the ordeals of the past. We understand and develop our abilities as responsibilities that arise from this faith,[4] as gifts from God to be placed at the service of humanity and of creation.

While we all work for a cure for a virus that strikes everyone without distinction, faith exhorts us to commit ourselves seriously and actively to combat indifference in the face of violations of human dignity. This culture of indifference that accompanies the throwaway culture: things that do not affect me, do not interest me. Faith always requires that we let ourselves be healed and converted from our individualism, whether personal or collective; party individualism, for example.

May the Lord “restore our sight” so as to rediscover what it means to be members of the human family. And may this sight be translated into concrete actions of compassion and respect for every person and of care and safeguarding of our common home.

[1] Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations (2 October 1979).

[2] Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations (5 October 1995).

[3] Cf. Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, 157.

[4] Ibid.

I cordially greet the English-speaking faithful. As we prepare to celebrate the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, I entrust you and your families to her maternal intercession, that she may guide us on our pilgrim way to the fullness of Christ’s promises. And I ask you please to pray for me. May God bless you!

Summary of the Holy Father’s words:

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in our continuing catechesis on the effects of the current pandemic in the light of the Church’s social doctrine, we now consider the theme of human dignity. The pandemic has made us more aware of the spread within our societies of a false, individualistic way of thinking, one that rejects human dignity and relationships, views persons as consumer goods and creates a “throw away” culture (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 53). In contrast, faith teaches that we have been created in God’s image and likeness, made for love and for communion of life with him, with one another and with the whole of creation. Jesus tells us that true discipleship consists in following his example by spending ourselves in service of others. Our God-given dignity and the rights that arise from it are the ultimate foundation of all social life, and have serious social, economic and political implications. In responding to the pandemic we Christians are called to combat all violations of human dignity as contrary to the Gospel, and to work for the wellbeing of our whole human family and our common home.


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Address oh His Holiness to Participants at the Seminar “Education: the Global Compact”. 7 February 2020


Consistory Hall
Friday, 7 February 2020


Dear Friends,

I offer you a warm greeting on the occasion of this Seminar promoted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences on “Education: The Global Compact”. I am pleased that you are reflecting on this theme, since today there is a need to join forces in order to achieve a broad educational covenant aimed at forming mature persons capable of mending, mending the fabric of human relationships and creating a more fraternal world (cf. Address to the Diplomatic Corps, 9 January 2020).

An integrated and quality education, and the standards set for graduation, continue to represent a global challenge. Despite the objectives formulated by the United Nations Organization and other bodies (cf. Goal 4), and the important efforts made by some countries, equality of education has not yet been achieved in our world. Poverty, discrimination, climate change, the globalization of indifference and the exploitation of human beings all prevent the flourishing of millions of children. Indeed, for many, these are an almost insurmountable wall preventing the attainment of the goals of sustainable and guaranteed development proposed by the world’s peoples.

Basic education today is a normative ideal throughout the world. The empirical data in your possession show that much progress has been made in giving boys and girls access to schooling. Today, the enrolment of young people in primary education is almost universal and it is clear that the gender gap has been narrowed. This is a praiseworthy achievement. Nonetheless, each generation needs to consider how best to hand on its knowledge and its values to the next, since it is through education that men and women attain their maximum potential and become conscious, free and responsible. Concern for education is concern for future generations and for the future of humanity. It is a concern profoundly rooted in hope and it calls for generosity and courage.

Education is not merely about transmitting concepts;that would be a legacy of the learning that has to be overcome, that is, it is not only the transmission of concepts. Education is an enterprise that demands cooperation on the part of all involved – the family, the school and social, cultural and religious institutions. In this sense, in some countries it is said that the educational compact is broken because this social participation in education is lacking. In order to educate, one has to be able to combine the language of the head with the language of the heart and the language of the hands. In this way, the student can think what he or she feels and does, can feel what he or she thinks and does, and can do what he or she feels and thinks. A total integration. By encouraging this training of the head, the heart and the hands, intellectual and socio-emotional education, the transmission of individual and societal values and virtues, the teaching of a committed citizenship concerned for justice, and by imparting the abilities and knowledge that can prepare young people for the world of work and society, families, schools and institutions become essential vehicles for the empowerment of future generations. [If it is so] We can’t speak, though, of a broken educational compact. This is the compact.

Today what I have called the “educational compact” between families, schools, nations and the world, culture and cultures, is in crisis, and indeed in a state of breakdown. That breakdown is serious, and it can only be fixed through a renewed universal effort of generosity and cooperation. This breakdown in the educational compact means that society, the family and the different institutions called to educate, have all delegated the decisive task of education to others. In this way, the various basic institutions and the states themselves have evaded their responsibilities and faltered in this educational compact.

Today we are called in some way to renew and consolidate the dedication of all – individuals and institutions – in favour of education, in order to forge a new educational compact, because only thus will education be able to change. To achieve this, there has to be an integration of disciplines, culture, sports, science, relaxation and recreation; for this reason, bridges have to be built to “jump over” (if you allow me that word) the forms of enclosure that trap us in our little world and to launch into the global open seas in respect for all traditions. Future generations must have a clear understanding of their own tradition and culture – this is non-negotiable – in relation to other traditions, in such a way that they can develop their own self-understanding by encountering and appropriating cultural diversity and change. This will enable the promotion of a culture of dialogue, a culture of encounter and mutual understanding, in a spirit of serenity and tolerance. An education that enables young people to identify and foster true human values from an intercultural and interreligious perspective.

The family needs to be given its proper place in the new educational compact, since its responsibility already begins in the maternal womb and at birth. Yet mothers, fathers, grandparents, and the family as a whole, in their primary educational role, need to be helped to understand, in the new global context, the importance of this early stage of life and be prepared to act accordingly. One of the fundamental ways to improve the quality of education on the scholastic level is to achieve greater participation of families and local communities in educational projects. This is essential to an integral, focused and universal education.

On this occasion, I wish also to pay homage to teachers – who are always underpaid – so that, faced with the challenge of education, they will persevere with courage and tenacity. They are “artisans” who shape the coming generations. By their knowledge, patience and dedication, they communicate a way of living and acting that embodies a richness that is not material but spiritual, and creates the men and woman of tomorrow. This is a great responsibility. Consequently, in the new educational compact, the function of teachers, as educators, must be acknowledged and supported by every possible means. If our objective is to offer each individual and every community the level of knowledge needed to enjoy their proper autonomy and to be capable of cooperating with others, it is important to ensure that educators are trained in accordance with the highest qualitative standards at every academic level. In order to support and promote this process, it is necessary that they be given access to suitable national, international and private resources, in such a way that throughout the world they can carry out their tasks in an effective way.

In this Seminar on “Education: The Global Compact”, you, academic leaders from some of the most respected universities of the world, have identified new springboards for making education more humane and equitable, more satisfactory and more relevant for the disparate needs of the economies and societies of the twenty-first century. You have examined, among other things, the new science of the mind, the brain and education, and the promise of technology, in order to reach children who presently lack opportunities for learning, as well as the important issue of the education of young refugees and immigrants worldwide. You have considered the effects of growing inequality and climate change on education, and reflected on the tools needed to reverse their effects and to lay the foundations for a more humane, healthy, equitable and prosperous society.

I spoke of three languages: the mind, the heart and the hands. When we speak of roots and values, we can speak of truth, goodness and creativity. Yet I do not want to finish these words without speaking of beauty. We cannot educate without leading a person to beauty, without leading the heart to beauty. Forcing my talk a little, I would say that an education is not successful if you do not know how to create poets. The path of beauty is a challenge that must be addressed.

I encourage you in the important and exciting task that is yours: to cooperate in the education of future generations. What you seek to accomplish has to do, not with the future, but with the present, here and now. Go forward, and may God bless you. I pray for you, and I ask you to pray for me. Thank you very much.


© Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Address of His Holiness to the Members of the Diplomatic Corps. 09 January 2020


Regia Hall
Thursday, 9 January 2020


Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen

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.[1] 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”.[2]

In this spirit, dear Ambassadors, I welcome you today and offer you my good wishes for the New Year. I thank in a particular way the Dean of the Diplomatic Corps, His Excellency George Poulides, the Ambassador of Cyprus, for his cordial greetings on your behalf. I am grateful to all of you for your much appreciated presence, and for your daily efforts to consolidate the relations existing between the Holy See and your various countries and international organizations for the sake of peaceful coexistence between peoples.

Peace and integral human development are in fact the principal aim of the Holy See in its involvement in the field of diplomacy. This is likewise the aim of the work carried out by the Secretariat of State and the Dicasteries of the Roman Curia, but also by the Papal Representatives, whom I thank for the dedication with which they carry out their twofold mission of representing the Pope to the local Churches and to your respective governments.

In this regard, we can think of the Agreements of a general nature signed and ratified in the past year with the Republic of the Congo, the beloved Central African Republic, Burkina Faso and Angola, as well as the Agreement between the Holy See and the Republic of Italy on the application of the Lisbon Convention on the recognition of qualifications concerning higher education in the European region.

So too, the Apostolic Visits that, in addition to being a privileged means for the Successor of Peter to confirm his brothers and sisters in the faith, represent an occasion for promoting dialogue at the political and religious levels. In 2019, I had the opportunity to make several significant visits. I would like to review them with you and to use this as an opportunity to take a a deeper look at some of the critical issues of the present time.

At the beginning of last year, during the XXXIV World Youth Day in Panama, I met young people from five continents, brimming with dreams and hopes, who came together to pray and nurture their desire to be involved in building a more humane world.[3] It is always a joy and a great opportunity to meet young people. They are the future and the hope of our societies, but also their present.

Tragically however, as we know, not a few adults, including different members of the clergy, have been responsible for grave crimes against the dignity of young people, children and teenagers, violating their innocence and privacy. These are crimes that offend God, cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to their victims, and damage the life of whole communities.[4] Following my meeting in the Vatican last February with representatives of the world’s episcopates, the Holy See has renewed its commitment to bring to light abuses already committed and to ensure the protection of minors through a wide range of norms for dealing with such cases in accordance with canon law and in cooperation with civil authorities on the local and international level.

Given the gravity of the harm involved, it becomes all the more urgent for adults not to abdicate their proper educational responsibilities, but to carry out those responsibilities with greater zeal, in order to guide young people to spiritual, human and social maturity.

For this reason, I have planned a worldwide event to take place on 14 May next with the theme: Reinventing the Global Compact on Education. This gathering is meant to “rekindle our commitment to and with young people, renewing our passion for a more open and inclusive education, including patient listening, constructive dialogue and better mutual understanding. Never before has there been such need to unite our efforts in a broad educational alliance, to form mature individuals capable of overcoming division and antagonism, and to restore the fabric of relationships for the sake of a more fraternal humanity”.[5]

All change, like the epochal change we are now experiencing, calls for a process of education and the creation of an educational village capable of forming a network of open and human relationships.[6] That village should put the human person at the centre, investing creatively and responsibly in long-term projects that train individuals willing to offer themselves in service to the community.

What is needed, then, is an educational vision that can encompass a broad range of life experiences and learning processes, in order to enable young people, individually and collectively, to develop their personalities. Education is not limited to school and university classrooms; it is principally ensured by strengthening and reinforcing the primary right of the family to educate, and the right of Churches and social communities to support and assist families in raising their children.

Education requires entering into sincere and genuine dialogue with young people. They are the ones who above all make us aware of the urgent need for that intergenerational solidarity which has sadly been lacking in recent years. There is, in fact, a tendency, in many parts of the world, to be self-absorbed, to defend acquired rights and privileges, and to view the world within a narrow horizon that treats the elderly with indifference and no longer welcomes the newborn. The general ageing of the world population, especially in the West, is a sad and emblematic example of this.

While not forgetting that young people look to the words and example of adults, we should also be well aware that they themselves have much to offer, thanks to their enthusiasm and commitment. To say nothing of their thirst for truth, which constantly reminds us of the fact that hope is not utopian and that peace is always a good that can be attained.

We have seen this in the way many young people have become active in calling the attention of political leaders to the issue of climate change. Care for our common home ought to be a concern of everyone and not the object of ideological conflict between different views of reality or, much less, between generations. In the words of Pope Benedict XVI, “in contact with nature, individuals rediscover their proper dimension; they recognize that they are creatures but at the same time unique, ‘capable of God’ since they are inwardly open to the Infinite”.[7] The protection of the home given to us by the Creator cannot be neglected or reduced to an elitist concern. Young people are telling us that this cannot be the case, for at every level we are being urgently challenged to protect our common home and to “bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development”.[8] They remind us of the urgent need for an ecological conversion, which “must be understood in an integral way, as a transformation of how we relate to our sisters and brothers, to other living beings, to creation in all its rich variety and to the Creator who is the origin and source of all life”.[9]

Sadly, the urgency of this ecological conversion seems not to have been grasped by international politics, where the response to the problems raised by global issues such as climate change remains very weak and a source of grave concern. The XXV Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP25), held in Madrid last December, raises serious concern about the will of the international community to confront with wisdom and effectiveness the phenomenon of global warming, which demands a collective response capable of placing the common good over particular interests.

These considerations bring our attention back to Latin America, and in particular to the Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon Region, held in the Vatican last October. The Synod was an essentially ecclesial event, prompted by the desire to listen to the hopes and challenges of the Church in Amazonia and to open new paths for the proclamation of the Gospel to the People of God, especially to the indigenous peoples. Nonetheless, the synodal assembly could not help but discuss other issues as well, beginning with integral ecology. Those issues impact the life of that region, so vast and important for the entire world, inasmuch as “the Amazon rainforest is a ‘biological heart’ for the increasingly threatened earth”.[10]

In addition to the situation in the Amazon region, another cause for concern is the proliferation of political crises in a growing number of countries of the American continent, accompanied by tensions and unaccustomed forms of violence that sharpen social conflicts and have grave socioeconomic and humanitarian consequences. Greater polarization does not help to resolve the real and pressing problems of citizens, especially those who are poorest and most vulnerable, nor can violence, which for no reason can be employed as a means of dealing with political and social issues. Here, in this setting, I would like to mention Venezuela in particular, so that efforts to seek solutions will continue.

Generally speaking, the conflicts of the American region, despite their different roots, are linked by profound forms of inequality, injustice and endemic corruption, as well as by various kinds of poverty that offend the dignity of persons. Consequently, there is a need for political leaders to work diligently to reestablish a culture of dialogue for the sake of the common good, to reinforce democratic institutions and promote respect for the rule of law, as a means of countering anti-democratic, populist and extremist tendencies.

In my second journey of 2019, I went to the United Arab Emirates, the first visit of a Successor of Peter to the Arabian Peninsula. At Abu Dhabi, I joined the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Ahmad Al-Tayyeb in signing the Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together. This is an important text, aimed at fostering mutual understanding between Christians and Muslims, and peaceful coexistence in increasingly multiethnic and multicultural societies. In forcefully condemning the use of “the name of God to justify acts of murder, exile, terrorism and oppression”,[11] the Document recalls the importance of the concept of citizenship, “based on the equality of rights and duties, under which all enjoy justice”.[12] This requires respect for religious freedom and the resolve to reject the discriminatory use of the term “minorities”, which engenders feelings of isolation and inferiority, and paves the way for hostility and discord, discriminating between citizens on the basis of their religious affiliation.[13] To this end, it is particularly important to train future generations in interreligious dialogue, the main road to greater knowledge, understanding and reciprocal support between the members of different religions.

Peace and hope were also at the heart of my visit to Morocco where, with His Majesty King Muhammed VI, I signed a joint appeal on Jerusalem, in recognition of “the unique and sacred character of Jerusalem/Al-Quds Acharif, and with deep concern for its spiritual significance and its special vocation as a city of peace”.[14] And from Jerusalem, a city dear to the faithful of the three monotheistic religions, one called to be a symbolic place of encounter and of peaceful coexistence where mutual respect and dialogue are cultivated,[15] I cannot fail to turn to the entire Holy Land and to reiterate the urgent need for the whole international community to reconfirm, with courage and sincerity, and in respect for international law, its commitment to support the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

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 favourably 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”,[16] 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.

More generally, it should be noted that many thousands of persons in our world present legitimate requests for asylum, and have verifiable humanitarian needs and a need for protection that are not adequately identified. Many are risking their lives in perilous journeys by land and above all by sea. It is painful to acknowledge that the Mediterranean Sea continues to be a vast cemetery.[17] Consequently, it is increasingly urgent that all states accept responsibility for finding lasting solutions.

For its part, the Holy See looks with great hope to the efforts being made by many countries to share the burden of resettling refugees, in particular those fleeing from humanitarian emergencies, and to provide them with a secure place in which to live, education and possibilities for employment and reunion with their families.

Dear Ambassadors,

In my journeys during this past year, I was also able to visit three Eastern European countries, first Bulgaria and North Macedonia, and then Romania. Three countries each different from the others, yet linked by the fact that for centuries they have been bridges between East and West, and a crossroads of diverse cultures, ethnicities and civilizations. As I visited them, I experienced once again the importance of dialogue and the culture of encounter for creating peaceful societies in which each individual can freely express his or her ethnic and religious identity.

Remaining within the European context, I would like to reaffirm the importance of supporting dialogue and respect for international law as a means of resolving the “frozen conflicts” that persist on the continent, some of which have lasted for decades and demand a solution, beginning with the situations involving the western Balkans and the southern Caucasus, including Georgia. In this setting, I would also like to express the Holy See’s encouragement of the negotiations for the reunification of Cyprus, which would increase regional cooperation and promote the stability of the entire Mediterranean area. I would also express my appreciation for the efforts made to resolve the conflict in eastern Ukraine and to put an end to the suffering of its people.

Dialogue – not arms – is the essential way to resolve disputes. In this regard, I would like in this setting to acknowledge the contribution made, for example, in Ukraine by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), particularly during this year that marks the forty-fifth anniversary of the Helsinki Final Act. That Act concluded the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE), initiated in 1973 to foster détente and cooperation between the countries of Western and Eastern Europe, at a time when the continent was still divided by the Iron Curtain. The Final Act was an important stage in a process begun in the aftermath of the Second World War, one that viewed consensus and dialogue as key instruments for the resolution of conflicts.

The foundations of the process of European integration were laid in Western Europe in 1949 with the creation of the Council of Europe and the subsequent adoption of the European Convention on Human Rights, which saw in the 9 May 1950 Declaration of then Minister of Foreign Affairs of France, Robert Schuman, an essential pillar. Schuman stated that “peace cannot be ensured except by making creative efforts proportionate to the dangers that menace it”. The founders of modern Europe realized that only through a gradual process of sharing ideals and resources would the continent be able to recover from the devastation of war and the new divisions that arose after it.

The Holy See followed the European project with great interest from its earliest years; this year marks the fiftieth anniversary of its presence as an Observer to the Council of Europe and the establishment of diplomatic relations with the then European Communities. It has sought to emphasize the ideal of an inclusive process of growth inspired by a spirit of participation and solidarity, capable of making Europe a model of welcome and social equality guided by shared underlying values. The European project continues to be a fundamental guarantee of development for those who have long shared in it, and an opportunity for peace in the aftermath of turbulent conflicts and injuries for those countries that aspire to take part in it.

Consequently, Europe ought not to lose that sense of solidarity that has for centuries set it apart, even at the most difficult moments of its history. May it not lose that spirit, which finds its roots, among other things, in the Roman pietas and the Christian caritas that have shaped the spirit of the European peoples. 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.

The thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall has reminded us of one of the most painful symbols of the continent’s more recent history and made us realize once again how easy it is to erect barriers. The Berlin Wall remains emblematic of a culture of division that alienates people from one another and opens the way to extremism and violence. We see this more and more in the hate speech widespread on the internet and in the social communications media. Rather than walls of hatred, we prefer bridges of reconciliation and solidarity; rather than what alienates, we prefer what draws people closer together. For we are aware that, as my predecessor Pope Benedict XV wrote a hundred years ago, “there can be no stable peace… without a reconciliation based on mutual charity as a means of quelling hatred and banishing enmity”.[18]

Dear Ambassadors,

I was able to see signs of peace and reconciliation during my visit to Africa, where joy is so evident in those who feel part of a people and together face the daily challenges of life in a spirit of sharing. I experienced concrete hope in the form of many encouraging events, starting with the further progress achieved in Mozambique by the 1 August 2019 signing of the Agreement on the definitive cessation of hostilities.

In Madagascar, I saw how it is possible to create security where earlier there was instability, to see hope in place of inevitability, to see signs of life in a place where many proclaimed death and destruction.[19] Essential in this regard are families and the sense of community that can enable the growth of that basic trust which is at the root of every human relationship. In Mauritius, I observed how “the different religions, while respecting their specific identities, work hand-in-hand to contribute to social harmony and to uphold the transcendent value of life against every kind of reductionism”.[20] I am confident that the enthusiasm, which was so tangible at every moment of my journey, will continue to inspire concrete acts of acceptance and projects capable of promoting social justice and avoiding expressions of exclusion.

Broadening our gaze to other parts of the continent, it is painful to witness, particularly in Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger and Nigeria, continuing episodes of violence against innocent people, including many Christians persecuted and killed for their fidelity to the Gospel. I urge the international community to support the efforts made by these countries to eliminate the scourge of terrorism that is causing more and more bloodshed in whole parts of Africa, as in other parts of the world. In the light of these events, we need to implement practical strategies aimed not only at increased security, but at reducing poverty, improving healthcare systems, favouring development and humanitarian assistance, and promoting good governance and civil rights. These are the pillars of authentic social development.

Likewise, there is a need to encourage initiatives to foster fraternity among all local cultural, ethnic and religious groups, particularly in the Horn of Africa, in Cameroon and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where violence continues, especially in the eastern part of that country. Situations of conflict and humanitarian crises, aggravated by climate change, are increasing the numbers of displaced persons and affecting people already living in a state of dire poverty. Many of the countries experiencing these situations lack adequate structures for meeting the needs of the displaced.

In this regard, I would like to point out that, sadly, there does not yet exist a consistent international response to help address the phenomenon of internal displacement. This is due in large part to the lack of an internationally agreed definition, since that phenomenon takes place within national borders. The result is that internally displaced persons do not always receive the protection they deserve, and depend on the policies and response capabilities of the nations in which they find themselves.

Recently, the United Nations High-Level Panel on Internal Displacement has begun its work, which I hope will garner attention and worldwide support for displaced persons, while devising concrete plans and projects.

In this regard, I think also of Sudan, with the fervent hope that its citizens will be able to live in peace and prosperity, and cooperate in the democratic and economic growth of the country. I think also of the Central African Republic, where a global agreement was signed last February to put an end to over five years of civil war. My thoughts turn also to South Sudan, which I hope to be able to visit in the course of this year. Last April I dedicated a day-long retreat to that country, in the presence of its leaders and with the much-appreciated contribution of His Grace Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and the Reverend John Chalmers, former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church of Scotland. I am confident that, with the help of the international community, all those charged with political responsibilities will pursue dialogue in order to implement the agreements reached.

My final journey in the year just ended was to eastern Asia. In Thailand, I was able to witness the harmony that characterizes the country’s numerous ethnic groups with their diverse philosophies, cultures and religions. This represents a significant challenge in the current context of globalization, where differences tend to be flattened out and considered primarily in economic and financial terms, with the risk of erasing the distinctive features of various peoples.

Lastly, in Japan I tangibly experienced the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting on one another.[21] In hearing the testimonies of some Hibakusha, the survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it became clear to me that true peace cannot be built on the threat of a possible total annihilation of humanity by nuclear weapons. The Hibakusha “keep alive the flame of collective conscience, bearing witness to succeeding generations to the horror of what happened in August 1945 and the unspeakable sufferings that have continued to the present time. Their testimony awakens and preserves the memory of the victims, so that the conscience of humanity may rise up in the face of every desire for dominance and destruction”,[22] especially that fostered by the possession of such potentially destructive devices as nuclear weapons. These weapons do not only foster a climate of fear, suspicion and hostility; they also destroy hope. Their use is immoral, “a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home”.[23]

A world “without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary”.[24] The time has come for political leaders to realize that a safer world comes about not by the deterrent possession of powerful means of mass destruction, but rather by the patient efforts of men and women of good will who devote themselves concretely, each in his or her own field, to building a world of peace, solidarity and mutual respect.

2020 offers an important opportunity in this regard, since the Tenth Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons will be held in New York this coming 27 April to 22 May. It is my lively hope that the international community will then manage to achieve a conclusive and proactive consensus on ways to implement this international legal instrument, which has shown itself to be all the more important in times like our own.

As I conclude this review of the places that I visited in the past year, my thoughts turn in a particular way to one country that I have not visited, Australia, hard hit in recent months by persistent fires that have affected other areas of Oceania as well. I would like to assure the Australian people, especially the victims and all those in the areas devastated by the fires, of my closeness and my prayers.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

This year, the international community celebrates the seventy-fifth anniversary of the founding of the United Nations. Following the tragedies experienced in the wake of two world wars, on 26 April 1945 forty-six countries signed the Charter of the United Nations and established a new form of multilateral cooperation. The four goals of the Organization, set forth in Article 1 of the Charter, remain valid today. We may say that the efforts of the United Nations in these past seventy-five years have been largely successful, particularly by preventing another world war. The foundational principles of the Organization – the desire for peace, the pursuit of justice, respect for the dignity of the human person, humanitarian cooperation and assistance – express the just aspirations of the human spirit and constitute ideals that should be at the basis of international relations.

In this anniversary year, we wish to reaffirm the resolve of the entire human family to work for the common good as a criterion for moral action and a goal inspiring each country to cooperate in guaranteeing the existence and peaceful security of all others, in a spirit of equal dignity and effective solidarity, and within a legal system based on justice and the pursuit of just compromises.[25]

This will be the more effective to the extent that efforts are made to overcome the indirect approach employed in the language and acts of international bodies, which seeks to link fundamental rights to contingent situations. Such an approach forgets that these rights are intrinsically grounded in human nature itself. Whenever the lexicon of international organizations loses a clear objective anchoring, one risks fostering estrangement rather than rapprochement between the members of the international community, with the consequent crisis of the multilateral system, which is now sadly evident to all. In this context, there is a clear need to move once again towards an overall reform of the multilateral system, beginning with the UN system, which would make it more effective, taking into due account the present geopolitical context.

Dear Ambassadors,

As I come to the end of these reflections, 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 [Raffaello Sanzio], 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 colours 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.

Raphael was an important figure of the Renaissance, an age that enriched all humanity. It was an age that had its own problems, and yet was filled with confidence and hope. In recalling this outstanding artist, I would like to offer my cordial greeting to the people of Italy, with the prayerful hope that they will rediscover that spirit of openness to the future that exemplified the Renaissance and made this peninsula so beautiful and rich in art, history and culture.

One of Raphael’s favourite 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. Looking to Mary, I would like to say a special word to all women, twenty-five years after the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women, held in Beijing in 1995. It is my hope that the invaluable role of women in society may be increasingly acknowledged worldwide and that all forms of injustice, discrimination and violence against women come to an end. “Every form of violence inflicted upon a woman is a blasphemy against God”.[26] Acts of violence and exploitation directed at women are not merely wrong; they are crimes that destroy the harmony, the poetry and beauty that God wished to bestow on the world.[27]

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. Reaffirming this commitment, I renew to all of you, dear Ambassadors and distinguished guests, and to your countries, my cordial best wishes for a new year rich in hope and every blessing.

Thank you!

[1] Cf. Message for the 2020 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2019, 1.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Address at the Meeting with Authorities, the Diplomatic Corps and Representatives of Society, Panama, 24 January 2019.

[4] Cf. Motu Proprio Vox Estis Lux Mundi, 7 May 2019.

[5] Message for the Launch of the Global Compact on Education, 12 September 2019.

[6] Cf. ibid.

[7] Angelus, Les Combes, 17 July 2005.

[8] Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’, 24 May 2015, 13.

[9] Message for the 2020 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2019, 4.

[10] Final Document of the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon Region, “The Amazon: New Paths for the Church and for an Integral Ecology”, 2.

[11] Document on Human Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Cf. ibid.

[14] Appeal of His Majesty King Mohammed VI and His Holiness Pope Francis on Jerusalem/Al Quds, the Holy City and a place of encounter, Rabat, 30 March 2019.

[15] Cf. ibid.

[16] Angelus, 5 January 2020.

[17] Cf. Address to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 25 November 2014.

[18] BENEDICT XV, Encyclical Letter Pacem, Dei Munus Pulcherrimum, 23 May 1920.

[19] Cf. Greeting in the Akamasoa City of Friendship, Antananarivo, 8 September 2019.

[20] Address to the Authorities, Representatives of Civil Society and the Diplomatic Corps, Port Louis, 9 September 2019.

[21] Cf. Address on Nuclear Weapons, Nagasaki, 24 November 2019.

[22] Message for the 2020 World Day of Peace, 8 December 2019, 2.

[23] Address at the Meeting for Peace, Hiroshima, 24 November 2019.

[24] Address on Nuclear Weapons, Nagasaki, 24 November 2019.

[25] Cf. JOHN XXIII, Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, 11 April 1963, 98 [ed. Carlen].

[26] Homily for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and for the 2020 World Day of Peace, 1 January 2020.

[27] Cf. La donna è l’armonia del mondo. Meditation at morning Mass in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae, 9 February 2017.


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APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS TO JAPAN. Tribute to the Martyr Saints. 24 November 2019


(19-26 NOVEMBER 2019)



Martyrs’ Monument – Nishizaka Hill (Nagasaki)
Sunday, 24 November 2019


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Good morning!

I have very much looked forward to this moment. I have come here as a pilgrim to pray, to confirm you in the faith, and to be confirmed by the faith of these brothers and sisters who by their witness and devotion light up our path. I thank all of you for your warm welcome.

This shrine bears the images and names of Christians who were martyred long ago, starting with Paul Miki and his companions on 5 February 1597, and a host of other martyrs who consecrated this ground by their suffering and their death.

However, this shrine does more than speak of death; it also speaks of the triumph of life over death. Saint John Paul II saw this place not simply as the mount of the martyrs but a true Mount of the Beatitudes, where our hearts can be stirred by the witness of men and women filled with the Holy Spirit and set free from selfishness, complacency and pride (cf. Gaudete et Exsultate, 65). For here the light of the Gospel shone forth in the love that triumphed over persecution and the sword.

This shrine is above all a monument to Easter, for it proclaims that the last word – despite all evidence to the contrary – belongs not to death but to life. We are not destined for death but for the fullness of life. This was the message the martyrs proclaimed. Yes, here we see the darkness of death and martyrdom, but also the light of the resurrection, as the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the new life that Jesus wishes to bestow on us. Their witness confirms us in faith and helps us to renew our dedication and commitment to that missionary discipleship which strives to create a culture capable of protecting and defending all life through the daily “martyrdom” of silent service towards all, especially those in greatest need.

I have come to this monument of the martyrs to pay homage to these holy men and women. But I also come in humility, as one who himself, as a young Jesuit from “the ends of the earth”, found powerful inspiration in the story of the early missionaries and the Japanese martyrs. May we never forget their heroic sacrifice! May it not remain as a glorious relic of the past, to be kept and honored in a museum, but rather as a living memory, an inspiration for the works of the apostolate and a spur to renewed evangelization in this land. May the Church in the Japan of our own day, amid all its difficulties and signs of hope, feel called to hear anew each day the message proclaimed by Saint Paul Miki from the cross, and share with all men and women the joy and the beauty of the Gospel which is the way of truth and life (cf. Jn 14:6). May we free ourselves daily from whatever weighs us down and prevents us from walking in humility, freedom, parrhesia and charity.

Brothers and sisters, in this place we are united with those Christians throughout the world who, in our own day, suffer martyrdom for the faith. They are the martyrs of the twenty-first century and their witness summons us to set out with courage on the path of the Beatitudes. Let us pray with them and for them. Let us speak out and insist that religious freedom be guaranteed for everyone in every part of our world. Let us also condemn the manipulation of religions through “policies of extremism and division, by systems of unrestrained profit or by hateful ideological tendencies that manipulate the actions and the future of men and women” (Document on Human Fraternity, Abu Dhabi, 4 February 2019).

Let us ask Our Lady, Queen of Martyrs, Saint Paul Miki and all his companions, who throughout history have proclaimed by their lives the wonders of the Lord, to pray for your country and for the whole Church. May their witness awaken and sustain in all of us the joy of the mission.



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APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS TO JAPAN. Address on Nuclear Weapons. 24 November 2019


(19-26 NOVEMBER 2019)


Atomic Bomb Hypocenter Park (Nagasaki)
Sunday, 24 November 2019



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This place makes us deeply aware of the pain and horror that we human beings are capable of inflicting upon one another. The damaged cross and statue of Our Lady recently discovered in the Cathedral of Nagasaki remind us once more of the unspeakable horror suffered in the flesh by the victims of the bombing and their families.

One of the deepest longings of the human heart is for security, peace and stability. The possession of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction is not the answer to this desire; indeed they seem always to thwart it. Our world is marked by a perverse dichotomy that tries to defend and ensure stability and peace through a false sense of security sustained by a mentality of fear and mistrust, one that ends up poisoning relationships between peoples and obstructing any form of dialogue.

Peace and international stability are incompatible with attempts to build upon the fear of mutual destruction or the threat of total annihilation. They can be achieved only on the basis of a global ethic of solidarity and cooperation in the service of a future shaped by interdependence and shared responsibility in the whole human family of today and tomorrow.

Here in this city which witnessed the catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences of a nuclear attack, our attempts to speak out against the arms race will never be enough. The arms race wastes precious resources that could be better used to benefit the integral development of peoples and to protect the natural environment. In a world where millions of children and families live in inhumane conditions, the money that is squandered and the fortunes made through the manufacture, upgrading, maintenance and sale of ever more destructive weapons, are an affront crying out to heaven.

A world of peace, free from nuclear weapons, is the aspiration of millions of men and women everywhere. To make this ideal a reality calls for involvement on the part of all: individuals, religious communities and civil society, countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not, the military and private sectors, and international organizations. Our response to the threat of nuclear weapons must be joint and concerted, inspired by the arduous yet constant effort to build mutual trust and thus surmount the current climate of distrust. In 1963, Saint John XXIII, writing in his Encyclical Letter Pacem in Terris, in addition to urging the prohibition of atomic weapons (cf. No. 112), stated that authentic and lasting international peace cannot rest on a balance of military power, but only upon mutual trust (cf. No. 113).

There is a need to break down the climate of distrust that risks leading to a dismantling of the international arms control framework. We are witnessing an erosion of multilateralism which is all the more serious in light of the growth of new forms of military technology. Such an approach seems highly incongruous in today’s context of interconnectedness; it represents a situation that urgently calls for the attention and commitment of all leaders.

For her part, the Catholic Church is irrevocably committed to promoting peace between peoples and nations. This is a duty to which the Church feels bound before God and every man and woman in our world. We must never grow weary of working to support the principal international legal instruments of nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation, including the Treaty on the prohibition of nuclear weapons. Last July, the bishops of Japan launched an appeal for the abolition of nuclear arms, and each August the Church in Japan holds a ten-day prayer meeting for peace. May prayer, tireless work in support of agreements and insistence on dialogue be the most powerful “weapons” in which we put our trust and the inspiration of our efforts to build a world of justice and solidarity that can offer an authentic assurance of peace.

Convinced as I am that a world without nuclear weapons is possible and necessary, I ask political leaders not to forget that these weapons cannot protect us from current threats to national and international security. We need to ponder the catastrophic impact of their deployment, especially from a humanitarian and environmental standpoint, and reject heightening a climate of fear, mistrust and hostility fomented by nuclear doctrines. The current state of our planet requires a serious reflection on how its resources can be employed in light of the complex and difficult implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in order to achieve the goal of an integrated human development. Saint Paul VII suggested as much in 1964, when he proposed the establishment of a Global Fund to assist those most impoverished peoples, drawn partially from military expeditures (cf. Declaration to Journalists, 4 December 1964; Populorum Progressio, 51).

All of this necessarily calls for the creation of tools for ensuring trust and reciprocal development, and counts on leaders capable of rising to these occasions. It is a task that concerns and challenges every one of us. No one can be indifferent to the pain of millions of men and women whose sufferings trouble our consciences today. No one can turn a deaf ear to the plea of our brothers and sisters in need. No one can turn a blind eye to the ruin caused by a culture incapable of dialogue.

I ask you to join in praying each day for the conversion of hearts and for the triumph of a culture of life, reconciliation and fraternity. A fraternity that can recognize and respect diversity in the quest for a common destiny.

I know that some here are not Catholics, but I am certain that we can all make our own the prayer for peace attributed to Saint Francis of Assisi:

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light;
where there is sadness, joy.

In this striking place of remembrance that stirs us from our indifference, it is all the more meaningful that we turn to God with trust, asking him to teach us to be effective instruments of peace and to make every effort not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

May you and your families, and this entire nation, know the blessings of prosperity and social harmony!


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APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS TO JAPAN. Meeting for Peace. 24 November 2019


(19-26 NOVEMBER 2019)



Peace Memorial (Hiroshima)
Sunday, 24 November 2019


“For love of my brethren and friends, I say: Peace upon you!” (Ps 122:8).

God of mercy and Lord of history, to you we lift up our eyes from this place, where death and life have met, loss and rebirth, suffering and compassion.

Here, in an incandescent burst of lightning and fire, so many men and women, so many dreams and hopes, disappeared, leaving behind only shadows and silence.  In barely an instant, everything was devoured by a black hole of destruction and death.  From that abyss of silence, we continue even today to hear the cries of those who are no longer.  They came from different places, had different names, and some spoke different languages.  Yet all were united in the same fate, in a terrifying hour that left its mark forever not only on the history of this country, but on the face of humanity.

Here I pay homage to all the victims, and I bow before the strength and dignity of those who, having survived those first moments, for years afterward bore in the flesh immense suffering, and in their spirit seeds of death that drained their vital energy.

I felt a duty to come here as a pilgrim of peace, to stand in silent prayer, to recall the innocent victims of such violence, and to bear in my heart the prayers and yearnings of the men and women of our time, especially the young, who long for peace, who work for peace and who sacrifice themselves for peace.  I have come to this place of memory and of hope for the future, bringing with me the cry of the poor who are always the most helpless victims of hatred and conflict.

It is my humble desire to be the voice of the voiceless, who witness with concern and anguish the growing tensions of our own time: the unacceptable inequalities and injustices that threaten human coexistence, the grave inability to care for our common home, and the constant outbreak of armed conflict, as if these could guarantee a future of peace.

With deep conviction I wish once more to declare that the use of atomic energy for purposes of war is today, more than ever, a crime not only against the dignity of human beings but against any possible future for our common home.  The use of atomic energy for purposes of war is immoral, just as the possessing of nuclear weapons is immoral, as I already said two years ago.  We will be judged on this.  Future generations will rise to condemn our failure if we spoke of peace but did not act to bring it about among the peoples of the earth.  How can we speak of peace even as we build terrifying new weapons of war?  How can we speak about peace even as we justify illegitimate actions by speeches filled with discrimination and hate?

I am convinced that peace is no more than an empty word unless it is founded on truth, built up in justice, animated and perfected by charity, and attained in freedom (cf. SAINT JOHN XXIII, Pacem in Terris, 37).

Building peace in truth and justice entails acknowledging that “people frequently differ widely in knowledge, virtue, intelligence and wealth” (ibid., 87), and that this can never justify the attempt to impose our own particular interests upon others.  Indeed, those differences call for even greater responsibility and respect.  Political communities may legitimately differ from one another in terms of culture or economic development, but all are called to commit themselves to work “for the common cause”, for the good of all (ibid., 88).

Indeed, if we really want to build a more just and secure society, we must let the weapons fall from our hands.  “No one can love with offensive weapons in their hands” (SAINT PAUL VI, United Nations Address, 4 October 1965, 10).  When we yield to the logic of arms and distance ourselves from the practice of dialogue, we forget to our detriment that, even before causing victims and ruination, weapons can create nightmares; “they call for enormous expenses, interrupt projects of solidarity and of useful labour, and warp the outlook of nations” (ibid.).  How can we propose peace if we constantly invoke the threat of nuclear war as a legitimate recourse for the resolution of conflicts?  May the abyss of pain endured here remind us of boundaries that must never be crossed.  A true peace can only be an unarmed peace.  For “peace is not merely the absence of war… but must be built up ceaselessly” (Gaudium et Spes, 78).  It is the fruit of justice, development, solidarity, care for our common home and the promotion of the common good, as we have learned from the lessons of history.

To remember, to journey together, to protect.  These are three moral imperatives that here in Hiroshima assume even more powerful and universal significance, and can open a path to peace. For this reason, we cannot allow present and future generations to lose the memory of what happened here.  It is a memory that ensures and encourages the building of a more fair and fraternal future; an expansive memory, capable of awakening the consciences of all men and women, especially those who today play a crucial role in the destiny of the nations; a living memory that helps us say in every generation: never again!

That is why we are called to journey together with a gaze of understanding and forgiveness, to open the horizon to hope and to bring a ray of light amid the many clouds that today darken the sky.  Let us open our hearts to hope, and become instruments of reconciliation and peace.  This will always be possible if we are able to protect one another and realize that we are joined by a common destiny.  Our world, interconnected not only by globalization but by the very earth we have always shared, demands, today more than ever, that interests exclusive to certain groups or sectors be left to one side, in order to achieve the greatness of those who struggle co-responsibly to ensure a common future.

In a single plea to God and to all men and women of good will, on behalf of all the victims of atomic bombings and experiments, and of all conflicts, let us together cry out from our hearts: Never again war, never again the clash of arms, never again so much suffering!  May peace come in our time and to our world.  O God, you have promised us that “mercy and faithfulness have met, justice and peace have embraced; faithfulness shall spring from the earth, and justice look down from heaven” (Ps 84:11-12).

Come, Lord, for it is late, and where destruction has abounded, may hope also abound today that we can write and achieve a different future.  Come, Lord, Prince of Peace!  Make us instruments and reflections of your peace!

“For love of my brethren and friends, I say: Peace upon you!” (Ps 122:8).




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APOSTOLIC JOURNEY OF HIS HOLINESS TO THAILAND. Meetings with the Bishops of Thailand. 22 November 2019


(19-26 NOVEMBER 2019)



Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung Shrine (Bangkok)
Friday, 22 November 2019

I thank His Eminence Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak Kovithavanij for his kind words of introduction and welcome. I am happy to be with you and to share, even briefly, your joys and hopes, your projects and dreams, but also the challenges that you face as pastors of God’s holy and faithful people. Thank you for your fraternal welcome.

Our meeting today takes place at the Shrine of Blessed Nicholas Bunkerd Kitbamrung, who devoted his life to evangelization and catechesis, forming disciples of the Lord, primarily here in Thailand but also in part of Vietnam and along the border with Laos, and who crowned his witness to Christ with martyrdom. Let us place our meeting under his watchful gaze, so that his example may inspire us with a great zeal for evangelization in all the local Churches of Asia, so that we may increasingly become missionary disciples of the Lord, enabling his Good News to spread like a fragrant balm throughout this great and beautiful continent.

I realize that you are making plans for the 2020 General Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, which will mark the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. This is a fitting occasion to revisit those “shrines” where the missionary roots that left their mark on these lands are preserved, to be guided by the Holy Spirit in the footsteps of our first love, and to welcome with courage, with parrhesia, a future that you yourselves must help develop and create. In this way, both the Church and society in Asia will benefit from a renewed and shared evangelical outreach. In love with Christ and capable of bringing others to share in that same love.

You are living in the midst of a multicultural and multi-religious continent, with great beauty and prosperity, but troubled at the same time by poverty and exploitation at various levels. Rapid technological advancements can open up immense possibilities that make life easier, but can result in the growth of consumerism and materialism, especially among young people. You have taken upon yourselves the concerns of your people: the scourge of drugs and human trafficking, the care of great numbers of migrants and refugees, poor working conditions and the exploitation experienced by many labourers, as well as economic and social inequality between rich and poor.

In the midst of these tensions stands the pastor who struggles and intercedes with his people and for his people. The memory of the first missionaries who preceded us with courage, joy and extraordinary stamina can help us take stock of our present situation and mission from a much broader, much more transformative perspective. In the first place, that memory frees us from the belief that times past were always more favorable or better for the proclamation of the Gospel. It also helps us to avoid taking refuge in fruitless discussions and ways of thinking that end up making us turn in on ourselves, paralyzing any kind of action. “Let us learn from the saints who have gone before us, who confronted the difficulties of their own day” (Evangelii Gaudium, 263). Let us cast aside everything that has “stuck” to us along the way and that makes it harder for us to press forward. We know that some ecclesial structures and mentalities can hamper efforts at evangelization. Yet even good structures are only helpful when there is a life constantly driving, sustaining and assessing them. Ultimately, without new life and an evangelical spirit, without “the Church’s fidelity to her own calling”, any new structure will soon prove ineffective (cf. ibid., 26) and detract from our important ministry of fervent prayer and intercession. Sometimes this can help to give us perspective when dealing with enthusiastic though unwise methodologies that appear to be successful, but offer little by way of life.

As we contemplate missionary progress in these lands, one of the first lessons we learn is to be confident in the knowledge that it is the Holy Spirit himself who goes before us and gathers us together. The Holy Spirit is the first to invite the Church to go forth to all those places where new narratives and paradigms are being formed, bringing the word of Jesus to the inmost soul of our cities and cultures (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 74). Let us not forget that the Holy Spirit arrives in advance of missionaries and remains with them. The power of the Holy Spirit sustained and motivated the Apostles and countless missionaries not to discount any land, people, culture or situation. They did not look for places of “guaranteed success”; on the contrary, their “guarantee” lay in the certainty that no person or culture was a priori incapable of receiving the seed of life, happiness, and above all friendship, that the Lord wants to sow in them. They did not expect a foreign culture to receive the Gospel easily; rather, they plunged into these new realities, convinced of the beauty of which they were bearers. All life has value in the eyes of the Master. They were bold and courageous because they knew that in the first place the Gospel is a gift to be shared with and for everyone: shared among all people, the doctors of the law, sinners, tax collectors, prostitutes. With and for all sinners, then as now. I like to observe that the mission, even prior to things to be done or projects to be implemented, demands the cultivation of a gaze and a sense of smell. The mission calls for a paternal and maternal concern, because the sheep is only lost when the shepherd gives it up for lost, and not before. Three months ago, I received a visit from a French missionary who has been working for forty years in the north of Thailand, among the tribes. He came with a group of twenty or twenty-five people, all mothers and fathers, young people, not more than twenty-five years old. He himself had baptized them, the first generation, and now he was baptizing their children. One could think: you have given your life for fifty or a hundred people. But that was the seed, and God is giving him the consolation of baptizing the children of those he first baptized. Simply put, he experienced those indigenous people from the north of Thailand as a source of wealth for evangelizing. He did not give up on that sheep; he took it in charge.

One of the most splendid aspects of evangelization is our realization that the mission entrusted to the Church does not lie only in the proclamation of the Gospel but also in learning to believe the Gospel. How many there are who proclaim – at times we proclaim, in moments of temptation – the Gospel, but we do not believe the Gospel, do not let ourselves be laid hold of and transformed by it. This means living and walking in the light of the word of God that we are charged to proclaim. We do well to remember the words of Saint Paul VI: “The Church is an evangelizer, but she begins by being evangelized herself. She is the community of believers, the community of hope lived and communicated, the community of brotherly love, and she needs to listen unceasingly to what she must believe, to her reasons for hoping, to the new commandment of love” (Evangelii Nuntiandi, 15). In this way, the Church enters into the dynamic of conversion-proclamation demanded of each disciple. Purified by the Lord, she becomes a witness by vocation. A Church that goes forth, unafraid to take to the streets and come face to face with the lives of the people entrusted to her care, is a Church able to be open in humility to the Lord. With the Lord, she can experience the wonder, the amazement, of the missionary adventure without the need, conscious or unconscious, to be in first place, to seek or occupy any possible place of preeminence. How much we can learn from you, who are a minority in many of your countries or regions, and sometimes are overlooked or impeded or persecuted minorities, yet have not let yourselves be carried away or corrupted by an inferiority complex or the complaint that you are not given due recognition! Go forwards: proclaim, sow, pray and wait. And you will not lose your joy!

Dear brothers, “in union with Jesus, we seek what he seeks and we love what he loves” (Evangelii Gaudium, 267). Let us not be afraid to make his priorities our own. You are well aware that yours is a Church small in numbers and resources, but full of zeal and eager to be a living instrument of the Lord’s loving concern for all the people of your towns and cities (cf. Lumen Gentium, 1). Your commitment to advance that evangelical fruitfulness by proclaiming the kerygma with deeds and words in the various areas where Christians are present is a striking form of witness.

A missionary Church knows that its best message is its readiness to be transformed by the word of life, making service its hallmark. We are not the ones in charge of the mission, and even less our plans and strategies. The Holy Spirit is the true protagonist who propels us, as sinners who have been forgiven; he constantly sends us forth to share this treasure in earthen vessels (cf. 2 Cor 4:7). We have been transformed by the Spirit in order to transform wherever we are placed. The martyrdom of a daily and often silent commitment will bear the fruits your people need.

This motivates us to develop a specific spirituality. The pastor is a person who, in the first place, loves his people deeply and knows their idiosyncrasies, weaknesses and strengths. Mission is at once a passion for Jesus Christ and a passion for his people. When we stand before the crucified Jesus, we see the depth of his love that exalts and sustains us, but at the same time, unless we are blind, we begin to realize that Jesus’ gaze, burning with love, expands to embrace all his people (cf. Evangelii Gaudium, 268).

Let us remember that we too are part of this people; we are not masters, we are part of the people; we were chosen to be servants, not masters or managers. This means we are to accompany those whom we serve with patience and kindness, listening to them, respecting their dignity, always promoting and valuing their apostolic initiatives. Let us not lose sight of the fact that many of your lands were evangelized by the lay faithful. Let us not clericalize our mission, please, and no less should we clericalize the laity. These laypeople were able to speak the dialect of their people, a simple and direct exercise of inculturation, neither theoretical nor ideological, but the fruit of their zeal to share Christ. The holy and faithful People of God possesses the anointing of the Holy Spirit, which we are called to recognize, esteem and expand. Let us never lose the grace of seeing God working in the midst of his people, as he did in the past, as he is doing now and as he will continue to do. An image comes to mind which was not in our programme, but…: the young Samuel who woke up at night. God respected the elderly priest, whose character was weak, he let him carry on, but he did not speak to him. He spoke to a boy, one of the people.

In a particular way, I encourage you always to keep your door open for your priests. The door and the heart. May we always remember that the closest neighbor of the bishop is the priest. Be close to your priests, listen to them and seek to accompany them in every situation, especially when you see that they are discouraged or apathetic, which is the worst of the devil’s temptations. Apathy, despondency. Do so not as judges but as fathers, not as managers who deploy them, but as true elder brothers. Create a climate of trust for honest dialogue, an open dialogue; seek and implore the grace to show the same patience with them that the Lord, whose patience is so very great, has shown to each of us, and it is a great deal, a great deal.

Dear brothers, I know that there are many issues you must confront within your communities, both daily and as you look to the future. May we never lose sight of the fact that in that often uncertain future, it is the Lord himself who comes with the power of the resurrection to transform every wound into a fountain of life. Let us look to the future in the certainty that we are not alone, we do not journey alone; the Lord is there, waiting for us, and inviting us to recognize him above all in the breaking of the bread.

Let us beg the intercession of Blessed Nicholas and that of all the many missionary saints, so that our people may be renewed with that same anointing.

Given the presence here of many Bishops from Asia, I take this opportunity to extend my blessing and affection to all your communities and, in a special way, to the sick and to all who are experiencing moments of difficulty. May the Lord bless, care for, and accompany you always. And you, may he take you by the hand; and may you let yourselves be taken by the Lord’s hand, and do not seek out other hands.

And please, do not forget to pray for me and to ask your communities to do the same, because everything I have said to you I need to say to myself as well.

Thank you very much.

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Address of Pope Francis to the National Federation of the Orders of Doctors. 20.09.2019


Clementine Hall
Friday, 20 September 2019


Dear brothers and sisters,

It is with pleasure that I welcome you all, members of the National Federation of the Orders of Doctors and Dental Surgeons, and I thank your vice president for his kind words. I know you have devoted the last three years to the “general states” of the medical profession, or rather, to the exchange on how best to exercise your activity in a changed social context, to identify better the changes useful to interpret people’s needs and to offer them, along with professional competences, also a good human relationship.

Medicine is by definition service to human life, and as such in involves an essential and indispensable reference to the person in his spiritual and material integrity, in his individual and social dimension: medicine is service to man, to the whole man, every man. And you doctors are convinced of this truth on the basis of a very long tradition, which dates back to the Hippocratic intuitions; and it is precisely from this conviction that there arise your just concerns for the pitfalls to which today’s medicine is exposed.

We must always remember that illness, the object of your concerns, is more than a clinical fact, medically circumscribable; it is always the condition of a person, the sick person, and it is with this entirely human vision that doctors are called to relate to the patient: considering therefore his singularity as a person who has an illness, and not only a case of whatever illness that patient has. For doctors it is a matter of possessing, together with the due technical-professional competence, a code of values and meanings with which to give meaning to the disease and to their work, and to make each individual clinical case a human encounter.

Faced, therefore, with any change in medicine and in the society you have identified, it is important that the doctor does not lose sight of the uniqueness of each patient, with his dignity and his fragility. A man or a woman to be accompanied with conscience, intelligence and heart, especially in the most serious situations. With this attitude we can and must reject the temptation – also induced by legislative changes – to use medicine to support a possible willingness to die of the patient, providing assistance to suicide or directly causing death by euthanasia.

These are hasty ways of dealing with choices that are not, as they might seem, an expression of the person’s freedom, when they include the discarding of the patient discard as a possibility, or false compassion in the face of the request to be helped to anticipate death. As the New Charter for Health Care Workers states: “There is no right to dispose arbitrarily of one’s life, so no doctor can become an executive guardian of a non-existent right” (169).

Saint John Paul II observes that the responsibility of health care workers “today is greatly increased. Its deepest inspiration and strongest support lie in the intrinsic and undeniable ethical dimension of the health-care profession, something already recognized by the ancient and still relevant Hippocratic Oath, which requires every doctor to commit himself to absolute respect for human life and its sacredness” (Evangelium vitae, 89).

Dear friends, I invoke God’s blessing on your commitment and I entrust you to the intercession of the Virgin Mary Salus infirmorum. Please do not forget to pray for me.

*Bulletin of the Holy See Press Office, 20 September 2019


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