Francis addressed today the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See, outlining some of his priorities as Pope, including a fight against the "tyranny of relativism" decried by his predecessor.
In the Italian-language address, which Francis followed without making any off-the-cuff remarks, the Holy Father spoke of the role of the diplomats accredited to the Holy See as enabling him to "reach out [through you] to every one of your fellow citizens, with their joys, their troubles, their expectations, their desires."
He praised the high number of countries represented by the corps, while mentioning his hopes to "begin a journey with those few countries that do not yet have diplomatic relations with the Holy See."
There are just over a dozen nations that do not have diplomatic relations with the Holy See, including notably, China, North Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Francis went on to speak about the programmatic indications in his choice of name.
"One of the first reasons [I chose the name] was Francis' love for the poor," he explained. "How many poor people there still are in the world! An what great suffering they have to endure!"
He noted the Church's activity in helping those who suffer "in every corner of the globe."
"But," Francis continued, "there is another form of poverty! It is the spiritual poverty of our time, which afflicts the so-called richer countries particularly seriously. It is what my much-loved predecessor, Benedict XVI, called the 'tyranny of relativism,' which makes everyone his own criterion and endangers the coexistence of peoples. And that brings me to a second reason for my name. Francis of Assisi tells us we should work to build peace. But there is no true peace without truth! There cannot be true peace if everyone is his own criterion, if everyone can always claim exclusively his own rights, without at the same time caring for the good of others, of everyone, on the basis of the nature that unites every human being on this earth."
Francis spoke of his role as Pontiff, that is "bridge-builder," saying that he wants dialogue that will help all peoples to see in others "a brother or sister to be welcomed and embraced."
"My own origins impel me to work for the building of bridges," he added. "As you know, my family is of Italian origin; and so this dialogue between places and cultures a great distance apart matters greatly to me, this dialogue between one end of the world and the other."
The Holy Father said that religion is fundamental to this effort. "It is not possible to build bridges between people while forgetting God. But the converse is also true: it is not possible to establish true links with God, while ignoring other people. Hence it is important to intensify dialogue among the various religions, and I am thinking particularly of dialogue with Islam."
He also emphasized the importance of "outreach to non-believers, so that the differences which divide and hurt us may never prevail, but rather the desire to build true links of friendship between all peoples, despite their diversity."
"Fighting poverty, both material and spiritual, building peace and constructing bridges: these, as it were, are the reference points for a journey that I want to invite each of the countries here represented to take up," he said. "But it is a difficult journey, if we do not learn to grow in love for this world of ours. Here too, it helps me to think of the name of Francis, who teaches us profound respect for the whole of creation and the protection of our environment, which all too often, instead of using for the good, we exploit greedily, to one another's detriment."
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On ZENIT's Web page:
Full text: www.zenit.org/en/articles/francis-address-to-diplomatic-corps