and deplores religously motivated violence.
“Every expression of religion is called to promote peace”
Peace was a major theme of a recent address by Pope Francis to the members of the Diplomatic Corps. “Millions of people still live in the midst of senseless conflicts” he said. “Even in places once considered secure, a general sense of fear is felt.”
Pope Francis referred specifically to acts of religiously motivated violence, saying:
”Sadly, we are conscious that even today, religious experience, rather than fostering openness to others, can be used at times as a pretext for rejection, marginalization and violence.
Speaking of fundamentalist-inspired terrorism he says
“We are dealing with a homicidal madness which misuses God’s name in order to disseminate death, in a play for domination and power”.
These strong words show the Pope’s condemnation of using religion in order to promote violence and hatred. He calls on political authorities not just to limit themselves to providing security for their own citizens but to work proactively for the growth of peace.
Striking a note of hope, Pope Francis points to the number of religiously-inspired works that build up our societies, especially in areas of great conflict and poverty. In particular he mentions work in the areas of education and social assistance. On migration he says that all countries should feel responsible and that the burden should not be carried by some countries and left by others.
He appeals for an end to the Syrian conflict which is causing “a genuine human catastrophe”. He calls for “The elimination of the deplorable arms trade and the never-ending race to create and spread ever-more sophisticated weaponry”.
In his address, he touches on Europe which he says, is “experiencing a decisive moment in its history, one in which it is called to re-discover its proper identity.” For him, this means “recovering its roots in order to shape its future….The process of European unification, begun after the Second World War, continues to be a unique opportunity for stability, peace and solidarity between peoples.”
As Jesuits and those involved in the Jesuit mission, we can resonate with so much of what Pope Francis is saying; we can be proud of our many ministries which tackle these issues. We can think of our schools in Beirut, Kosovo, Albania, Cairo and indeed right across Europe. By their creativity and by their belief in young people, they are trying to build a whole new culture based on Gospel values. We can also think of the vital work done by our social centres as they promote justice, reach out to the poorest in our societies and foster dialogue. And the work of JRS is a light shining in the darkness of so much war and hatred. Such initiatives are key ways to fight fundamentalism, to bring about real change and to promote peace. As we contemplate the Jesuit mission in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa, and as we struggle with many difficult situations, we can find the words and the passion of Pope Francis encouraging and consoling.
Pope Francis spoke to the members of the Diplomatic Corps on 9th January 2017