(Vatican Radio) Combatting terrorism, promoting peaceful co-existence among peoples and nations and above all responding to the migration crises in Europe and beyond: these themes were at the heart of Pope Francis’ words to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, gathered in the Vatican on Monday for their annual encounter.
In the speech, often dubbed the Pope’s ‘state of the world’ address, the Holy Father spoke of worrying tensions which continue to plague the Gulf and Middle East regions, as well as the Korean peninsula. In this Jubilee year of Mercy, inaugurated in the Central African Republic’s capital of Bangui, the Pope urged the diplomats to help promote a new culture of dialogue, justice and peace.
English Archbishop Paul Gallagher is the Holy See’s foreign minister, or Secretary for Relations with States. Following the encounter, he sat down with Philippa Hitchen to discuss some of the central themes of the Pope’s message to the diplomatic corps…
Commenting on the overall tone of the address, Archbishop Gallagher says the Pope wanted to reinforce the fact that the Holy See is aware of the challenges being faced by the international community, including the ongoing battle against terrorism and the refugee crisis. Pope Francis, he says, wants to encourage the international community to face up to these challenges and to seek solutions “for the good of humanity.”
Concerning the Pope’s denouncement of recent “brutal” terrorist attacks, and his call for dialogue with the Muslim world, Archbishop Gallagher said Pope Francis wants to highlight the complexity of the problem, and to emphasise that as well as dialogue between the West and the Muslim world, it is essential that there be dialogue amongst Muslims themselves, so that “the true voice of Islam may be heard in the world.”
Integration is difficult, he said, and it has not always been done well in Europe. In order to face this challenge, he stressed, the European community must look for common solutions. The Pope, he added, recognizes the complexity of the problems, but there is a danger of reducing it simply to a problem, and not seeing beyond it to the lives of people involved.
Asked how countries that have been slow to take up responsibility in the refugee crisis might respond to Pope Francis’ address, Archbishop Gallagher said “We have to be careful that fear doesn’t enter into our hearts,” but he also noted the migrants and refugees have a responsibility to integrate themselves into the societies in which they find themselves. It is a two-way process, he insisted, and as such the decision to simply close borders is “to some extent, kicking the can down the road.”
Asked about the forthcoming Apostolic visit to Mexico, Archbishop Gallagher said the Pope will return to the theme of migration during his visit since he is aware of the “terrible dangers which migrants consistently expose themselves to.”
Finally, commenting on the focus of the Holy See's diplomacy over the coming months, Archbishop Gallagher said his office will continue to work on the whole question of the Middle East, the conflict in Syria and the neighbouring refugee problems in Jordan and Lebanon. He said he hoped that progress will also be made on resolving the conflict in Ukraine which is "bringing about a serious humanitarian crisis in that country this winter".