Pope to Diplomats: 'Troubling' to See Nationalism Trend Against International Institutions

Pope Francis speaks during an audience with members of the Diplomatic Corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings at the Sala Regia at the Vatican on Jan. 7, 2019. (Ettore Ferrari/Pool Photo via AP)

Pope Francis urged the Holy See diplomatic corps today to embrace multilateralism for a stronger and more peaceful international community.

The pontiff told the diplomatic representatives that while the Holy See has a responsibility “to show concern for the whole human family and its needs, including those of the material and social order,” the Vatican “has no intention of interfering in the life of states — it seeks instead to be an attentive listener, sensitive to issues involving humanity, out of a sincere and humble desire to be at the service of every man and woman.”

He stressed that “an indispensable condition for the success of multilateral diplomacy is the good will and good faith of the parties, their readiness to deal with one another fairly and honestly, and their openness to accepting the inevitable compromises arising from disputes,” but “it is clear, though, that relationships within the international community, and the multilateral system as a whole, are experiencing a period of difficulty, with the resurgence of nationalistic tendencies at odds with the vocation of the international organizations to be a setting for dialogue and encounter for all countries.”

Pope Francis laid partial blame on the “development of national policies determined more by the search for a quick partisan consensus than by the patient pursuit of the common good by providing long-term answers” and partly on “a tension between globalization and local realities.”

He called it “troubling to see the reemergence of tendencies” to bypass global bodies in favor of national interests, which is “at times the result of a reaction on the part of government leaders to growing unease among the citizens of not a few countries, who perceive the procedures and rules governing the international community as slow, abstract and ultimately far removed from their own real needs.”

“It is fitting that political leaders listen to the voices of their constituencies and seek concrete solutions to promote their greater good,” the pope said. “Yet this demands respect for law and justice both within their national communities and within the international community, since reactive, emotional and hasty solutions may well be able to garner short-term consensus, but they will certainly not help the solution of deeper problems; indeed, they will aggravate them.”

The international community and agencies “are called to give a voice to those who have none,” he emphasized, especially in Syria, where “it is vital to put an end to violations of humanitarian law, which cause untold suffering to the civil population, especially women and children, and strike at essential structures such as hospitals, schools and refugee camps, as well as religious edifices.”

Pope Francis plans to visit Morocco and the United Arab Emirates, noting the “important opportunities to advance interreligious dialogue and mutual understanding between the followers of both religions, in this year that marks the eight-hundredth anniversary of the historic meeting between Saint Francis of Assisi and Sultan al-Malik al-Kāmil.”

He called upon countries to provide assistance to migrants while allowing them “to return safely and with full respect for their dignity and human rights.”

“I cannot fail to express my appreciation for the efforts of all those governments and institutions that, moved by a generous sense of solidarity and Christian charity, cooperate in a spirit of fraternity for the benefit of migrants,” he said, citing Colombian sheltering Venezuelan refugees. “At the same time, I realize that the waves of migration in recent years have caused diffidence and concern among people in many countries, particularly in Europe and North America, and this has led various governments to severely restrict the number of new entries, even of those in transit.”

“Nonetheless, I do not believe that partial solutions can exist for so universal an issue. Recent events have shown the need for a common, concerted response by all countries, without exception and with respect for every legitimate aspiration, whether of states or of migrants and refugees themselves.”

Pope Francis urged the diplomats to view multilateral diplomacy as something that “invites us to rethink our common destiny.” That includes nuclear disarmament and climate change, he added.

“I express my hope for a more decisive commitment on the part of states to strengthening cooperation for urgently combating the worrisome phenomenon of global warming. The earth belongs to everyone, and the consequences of its exploitation affect all the peoples of the world, even if certain regions feel those consequences more dramatically,” he said. “Among the latter is the Amazon region, which will be at the centre of the forthcoming Special Assembly of the Synod of Bishops to be held in the Vatican next October. While chiefly discussing paths of evangelization for the people of God, it will certainly deal with environmental issues in the context of their social repercussions.”