(Vatican Radio) Pope Francis on Monday gave his annual address to the Holy See’s diplomatic corps, focusing especially on the migrant crisis facing Europe and other countries around the world. There are currently 180 nations with full diplomatic ties to the Vatican, as well as a representation of the European Union, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta and the Permanent Mission of the State of Palestine.
In the speech, sometimes called the Pope’s ‘state of the world’ address, the Holy Father spoke of the need to combat terrorism and fundamentalism, while promoting development and poverty alleviation in the poorest countries. 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.
Among those listening to the Pope’s words was Britain’s ambassador to the Holy See, Nigel Baker, who spoke to Philippa Hitchen about his reactions to the encounter…..
Ambassador Baker spoke about the central theme of migration, noting that the Pope not only identified it as a serious issue, but he recognized the impact it is having on all countries involved, including destination countries.
He said the Pope recognized the efforts that the international community has been making and reminded the diplomats that migration is not a new issue, since the Bible tells the story of a “humanity on the move.” He also reminded them that whenever we face new migration situations, new solutions, new creativity and new energy is needed.
The second area of interest the ambassador highlighted was the search for peace as the primary function of Holy See diplomacy. The Pope, he noted, stressed that the “authentic practice of religion cannot fail to promote peace” and he gave some examples from his own journeys as pontiff, showing that in fact mercy is something that can be put into practice.
Asked about the UK’s slow to response to the refugee crisis, the ambassador said the British government will respond positively to the Pope’s recognition of the complexity of these issues, particularly of integration and the need for longer term solutions, which is very much the British focus.
Secondly, he said, the Pope’s recognition of the generosity of the countries neighboring Syria ties in with a major conference that will be held in London on 4th February (which Archbishop Paul Gallagher will be attending) about how wealthier countries can support those nations in the immediate vicinity of Syria.
Asked whether he thought the UK Government was doing enough to promote dialogue and cooperation to combat terrorism and extremism, Ambassador Baker said his country is probably one of the global leaders, if only because of the UK’s experiences with multi-ethnic and multi-religious communities. He said there is extraordinary work being done in British cities by faith leaders who are working with local, regional and central government, both to tackle deep-seated issues and to respond in emergencies.