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Thursday, December 17, 2015

To new non-resident ambassadors: collaborate in promoting a culture of solidarity

Vatican City, 17 December 2015 (VIS) – The new ambassadors to the Holy See, representing Guinea, Latvia, India and Bahrain, respectively Fatoumata Balde, Veronika Erte, Smita Purushottam and Muhammad Abdul Ghaffar respectively, were received in audience by Pope Francis this morning. In his address, the Holy Father recalled the recent publication of his message for the World Day of Peace, entitled “Overcome indifference and win peace”, and took the opportunity to invite the diplomats to collaborate in promoting a culture of solidarity, counteracting the globalisation of indifference, one of the negative tendencies of our time.

“There are many ways in which this attitude of indifference manifests itself, and it has several causes”, he explained. “Essentially, however, these derive from an imbalanced humanism, in which man has taken God's place and has thus become the victim of various forms of idolatry. Even the grave ecological crisis that we are experiencing can be traced back to this anthropological imbalance. Indifference towards God, our neighbour and our environment are interconnected and grow reciprocally. Therefore, they can be combated only with a response that faces all three together, that is through a renewed humanism that relocates the human being in a correct relationship with the Creator, with others and with creation. It involves promoting a culture of solidarity and sharing, and this requires the commitment of those who with responsibility in the political, social, cultural and educational fields. … All this is necessary to combat indifference and to build peace”.

The Pope remarked that the year that is drawing to an end has been marked by violent conflicts and terrorism. “This situation is provoking in more mature consciences a non-violent, spiritual and moral reaction. It is this that we want and must nurture with the means available to us and according to our responsibilities. The Catholic Church, in accordance with her own mission, with the recently initiated Jubilee of Mercy, seeks to spread throughout the world the spirit of forgiveness and reconciliation, urging the faithful and men and women of goodwill to open themselves up to the grace of God and to practise what in our tradition are the 'works of corporal and spiritual mercy'. Civil society is likewise called to make specific and courageous gestures of concern for its most vulnerable members, such as prisoners, migrants, the unemployed and the infirm. Furthermore, I would also appeal to national leaders for concrete gestures in favour of our brothers and sisters who suffer from a lack of labour, land and lodging. In the international context I fervently hope that each Nation may be committed to renewing its relations with other peoples enabling fraternity also within the family of nations”.

The Pope concluded his discourse by sending, through the new diplomatic representatives, a fraternal greeting to the pastors and faithful of the Catholic communities present in those countries, encouraging them always to contribute loyally to the common good of society. “The more and the better they do this, the more their full religious freedom will be acknowledged. The Holy See is honoured to be able to establish with each one of you, and with the countries you represent, an open and respectful dialogue and constructive collaboration”.

The Pope receives the boys and girls of Catholic Action

Vatican City, 17 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Consistory Hall the Holy Father received in audience sixty boys and girls from Catholic Action Youth to exchange Christmas wishes with them, as is customary every year. As today is also the Pope's 79th birthday, they also celebrated by offering him a cake, which he received with thanks.

This year's theme of the path of formation in Catholic Action Youth is “Journeying to You”, which means “taking the path of good, not that of evil”, said Francis. “The path of forgiveness, not that of revenge; the path of peace, not that of war; the path of solidarity, not that of selfishness”. Catholic Action Youth has also drawn up a plan for offering aid to migrants in the diocese of Agrigento, whose community the Pope thanked for their exemplary efforts to welcome the many brothers and sisters “who arrive full of hope but also bearing many wounds and with many needs, in search of peace and sustenance”. The young people of Catholic Action can offer a special contribution to this initiative, with their enthusiasm and prayer, which he advised them to “accompany with a small sacrifice, to share their essentials with others who do not have them”.

The Pope also commented that yesterday's general audience was attended by a five month-old baby, born on a boat off the Sicilian coast, with his parents. “There are many of them. Many children arrive, others do not make it. Everything you do for these people is good. Many thanks for what you do”.

Presentation of the Manual on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on extreme poverty

Vatican City, 17 December 2015 (VIS) – This morning in the Holy See Press Office, a press conference was held to present the manual “Making human rights work for people living in extreme poverty: a handbook for implementing the UN Guiding Principles on extreme poverty and human rights”. The panel was composed of Bishop Bernardo Johannes Bahlmann, O.F.M., of Obidos, north-east Brazil; Michel Roy, secretary general of Caritas Internationalis; Fr. Michael A. Perry, O.F.M., minister general of the Franciscan Order of Friars Minor; Francesca Restifo, Franciscans International (FI) International Advocacy Director; and Jean Tonglet, ATD Fourth World delegate for Italy and Relations with the Holy See.

Bishop Bahlmann began by speaking about deforestation in the Amazon and the catastrophic consequences for the populations who live there and for the planet as a whole; Fr. Perry then commented on how Franciscans live in close contact with the communities affected by poverty in various parts of the world, and seek to establish a strong bond between the protection of the rights of the poor and the protection of the environment. Francesca Restifo then explained the content and aims of the Manual.

“The elimination of extreme poverty is not only a moral duty, but also a legal obligation, by virtue of the provisions of international law on human rights. Extreme poverty is not merely an economic question: it is a multidimensional phenomenon that includes both the lack of income and the basic capacities for being able to live in a dignified fashion, and it is something that seriously compromises the possibility for people to exercise or obtain their rights in the foreseeable future. The guiding principles are the first instrument that the United Nations dedicated to people in poverty. We understood the potential of this document and immediately felt the need to translate it into a language accessible to all. As is enshrined in them: 'Extreme poverty is not inevitable. It is, at least in part, created, enabled and perpetuated by acts and omissions of States and other economic actors'. But 'the tools for ending it are within reach'”.

These tools are “a basis in human rights, providing a framework for the long-term eradication of extreme poverty, starting from the acknowledgement that those who live in poverty are holders of rights and agents of their own change; empowerment, or rather making people autonomous and active in their community in reclaiming their rights; and participation and consultation with these people in the policies that affect them directly”.

“The aim of the manual that we present today was and remains that of helping local workers to understand better the consequences in terms of human rights for people who live in conditions of extreme poverty, and to propose to them a series of concrete actions to reclaim their rights, thus becoming agents of change. Our objective was to translate their individual challenges into collective actions. To do this, it was first necessary to listen to the needs of those who work with people directly involved in situations of poverty. … This took two years of constant consultation and collaboration at a capillary level with local communities and a continual exchange of ideas and information. We consulted with activists working in urban slums and in rural areas with limited access to basic services, with indigenous local populations who were losing their land and their means of subsistence due to the actions of large multinationals, and with those who work directly in the field to protect women, children, migrants and refugees”.

With regard to the content of the manual, Restifo explained that following the introductory chapter, the second part establishes various fundamental principles such as the importance of winning the trust of those who live in extreme poverty, the evaluation of the risks that they may run in claiming their rights, and their active participation in all phases of the process. The third part offers suggestions for concrete actions which can be undertaken to help the authorities respect their obligations in terms of human rights – valid proposals both for developing countries and those that are already industrialised. This is also the part that focuses on groups of rights, recognising their indivisibility, mutual relationship and interdependence. It is a practical guide to acting according to the situation and the specific questions relating to those involved. Finally, the fourth part is dedicated to the importance of monitoring the actions undertaken”.

Finally, Restifo emphasised that there is not a clear division between poverty and extreme poverty, but the latter is characterised by multiple and interrelated violations of civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. “Extreme poverty affects various areas of human existence and often creates a vicious circle of impotence, stigmatisation, discrimination, exclusion and material deprivation … elements that feed on each other. Some people can be poor but at the same time are part of a social fabric in which they are in any case integrated. Others do not have the same possibility”.


Vatican City, 17 December 2015 (VIS) – Today, the Holy Father received in audience:

- Cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples;

- Archbishop Alessandro D'Errico, apostolic nuncio in Croatia;

- Archbishop Aldo Cavalli, apostolic nuncio in the Netherlands;

- Professor Carl A. Anderson, Supreme Knight of the Knights of Columbus, with Archbishop William Edward Lori of Baltimore, United States of America.

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