Papal Address to Diplomatic Corps Accredited to
January 10, 2000
1. I wish before all else to express my deep gratitude to
your Dean, Ambassador Giovanni Galassi, who has graciously offered greetings and
good wishes in your name while at the same time pointing to a number of
significant events in the life of our contemporaries, their hopes, their
troubles and their fears. He has wished to underline the specific contribution
of the Catholic Church on behalf of harmony between peoples and in support of
their spiritual progress. I offer him heartfelt thanks.
2. Since we have just crossed the threshold of a new year, the Vicar of
Christ strongly desires to offer to the peoples whom you represent his prayerful
good wishes for this Year 2000 which so many have welcomed in "jubilation".
Christians have entered into the Great Jubilee by commemorating the coming of
Christ into time and human history: "In many and various ways God spoke of old
to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a
Son", as we read in the Letter to the Hebrews (1:1-2).
To God who desired to make a covenant with the world which he continues to
create, to love and to enlighten, I most heartily entrust each one's noblest
aspirations and their fulfilment, without overlooking the tragic trials and
setbacks which so often thwart humanity's march forward. With our contemporaries
I praise God for so many beautiful and good things, and I invoke his forgiveness
for so many attacks on human life and dignity, on fraternity and solidarity. May
the Most High help us to conquer in us and around us every form of resistance,
so that the season of men and women of good will may dawn or return, a season
which the recent feast of Christmas has proposed to us with the freshness of new
beginnings! These are my prayerful good wishes for all men and women, of all
countries and of all generations.
3. The century just ended has seen remarkable advances in science which have
considerably improved people's life and health. These advances have also
contributed to our dominion over nature and made easier people's access to
culture. Information technology has made the world smaller and brought us closer
to one another. Never before were we so quickly informed about the daily events
which affect the lives of our brothers and sisters in the human family. But one
question can be asked: was this century also the century of "brotherhood"?
Certainly an unqualified answer cannot be given.
As the balance is made, the memory of bloody wars which have decimated
millions of people and provoked massive exoduses, shameful genocides which haunt
our memories, as well as the arms race which fostered mistrust and fear,
terrorism and ethnic conflicts which annihilated peoples who had lived together
in the same territory, all force us to be modest and in many cases to have a
The life sciences and biotechnology continue to find new fields of
application, yet they also raise the problem of the limits imposed by the need
to safeguard people's dignity, responsibility and safety.
Globalization, which has profoundly transformed economic systems by creating
unexpected possibilities of growth, has also resulted in many people being
relegated to the side of the road: unemployment in the more developed countries
and extreme poverty in too many countries of the southern hemisphere continue to
hold millions of women and men back from progress and prosperity.
4. For this reason it seems to me that the century now beginning ought to be
the century of solidarity.
We know one thing today more than in the past: we will never be happy and at
peace without one another, much less if some are against others. The
humanitarian efforts deployed during recent conflicts and natural catastrophes
inspired praiseworthy initiatives of volunteerism which reveal a greater sense
of altruism, especially among the younger generation.
The phenomenon of globalization has somewhat changed the role of States:
citizens have become more and more involved, and the principle of subsidiarity
has undoubtedly contributed to greater balance between the forces present within
civil society; the citizen has become more a "partner" in the common effort.
This means, it seems to me, that the men and women of the 21st century will
be called to a more developed sense of responsibility. First, their personal
responsibility, in fostering a sense of duty and honest labour: corruption,
organized crime or passivity can never lead to a true and healthy democracy. But
there must also be an equal sense of responsibility towards others: an attitude
of concern for the poor, participation in structures of mutual assistance in the
workplace and in the social sphere, respect for nature and the environment, all
these are required if we are to have a world where people live together in a
better way. Never again must there be separation between people! Never again
must some be opposed to others! Everyone must live together, under God's
This also supposes that we must renounce idols such as prosperity at any
price, material wealth as the only value, science as the sole explanation of
reality. It also supposes that the rule of law will be applied and respected by
everyone and in all places, so that individual liberties can be effectively
guaranteed and equal opportunity become a reality for all people. It also
supposes that God will have his rightful place in people's lives: the first
In a world more than ever in search of meaning, Christians sense the call, as
this century opens, to proclaim with greater fervour that Jesus is the Redeemer
of mankind, and the Church senses the call to show herself to be the "sign and
safeguard of the transcendence of the human person" (Vatican Council II, Gaudium
et Spes, No. 76).
5. Such solidarity calls for certain precise commitments. Some of these are
- The sharing of technology and prosperity. In the absence of an attitude of
understanding and readiness to help, it would be difficult to restrain the
frustration felt by certain countries which see themselves condemned to founder
in ever more serious precariousness and at the same time to have to compete with
other countries. I myself have brought up on a number of occasions, for example,
the issue of the debt of poor countries.
- Respect for human rights. The legitimate aspirations of the most
defenceless persons, the claims of ethnic minorities, the sufferings of all
those whose beliefs or culture are in one way or another held in contempt are
not merely optional issues to be dealt with as circumstances, or political or
economic interests, dictate. Not to ensure these rights means quite simply to
flout the dignity of persons and to endanger global stability.
- Conflict prevention would avoid situations difficult to resolve and would
spare much suffering. Appropriate international means are not lacking; they need
only to be used, carefully distinguishing, without opposition or separation,
between politics, law and morality.
- Lastly, calm dialogue between cultures and religions could favor a new way
of thinking and living. Despite their diverse mentalities and beliefs, the men
and women of this millennium, in recalling the errors of the past, must find new
ways of living together and respecting one another. Quality education, science
and information represent the best means for developing in each of us respect
for others, for their talents and beliefs, as well as a sense of universality
worthy of man's spiritual vocation. This dialogue would also make it possible in
the future to avoid arriving at an absurd situation: that of excluding or
killing others in the name of God. This undoubtedly will be a decisive
contribution to peace.
6. In recent years there has been much talk of a "new world order". The
persevering action of far-sighted diplomats, and of multilateral diplomacy in
particular, has resulted in a number of praiseworthy initiatives aimed at the
building of an authentic "community of nations". At present, for example, the
Middle East Peace Process is continuing; the Chinese people are speaking to one
another; the two Koreas are in dialogue; certain African countries are
attempting to arrange meetings between rival factions; the government and armed
groups in Colombia are trying to remain in contact. All this demonstrates a real
desire to build a world based on brotherhood, in order to create, defend and
spread peace all around us.
Regrettably, however, we must also acknowledge that the errors of the past
are all too often being repeated: I am thinking of reactions based on group
identity, of persecutions inflicted for religious reasons, of the frequent and
at times rash recourse to war, of social inequalities, of the gap between the
rich and the poor countries, of the exclusive trust in profit alone, to cite
only some typical traits of the century just ended. At the beginning of the year
2000, what do we see?
Africa, shackled by ethnic conflicts which hold entire peoples hostage,
impeding their economic and social progress and often condemning them to a
situation of mere survival.
The Middle East, constantly poised between war and peace, when we know that
only the rule of law and justice will make it possible for all the peoples of
the region, without distinction, to live together and to be free of endemic
Asia, a continent of immense human and material resources, gathers into
precarious balance peoples of venerable and economically highly developed
cultures and others who are becoming increasingly impoverished. I recently
visited this continent in order to consign the Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia
in Asia, the fruit of a recent synodal assembly, which has now become a
charter for all Catholics. I join the Synod Fathers in inviting once more all
the Catholics of Asia and men and women of good will to unite their efforts in
building a society more firmly based on solidarity. America, an immense
continent where one year ago I had the joy of promulgating the Apostolic
Exhortation Ecclesia in America, inviting the peoples of the continent to
an ever-renewed personal and communal conversion, in respect for the dignity of
the person and love for the outcast, for the sake of promoting a culture of
North America, where economic and political concerns are often considered
paramount, is home to many poor people, despite its manifold riches. Latin
America, which, with a few exceptions, has seen encouraging advances towards
democracy, remains dangerously crippled by alarming social inequalities, the
drug trade, corruption and in some cases movements of armed struggle.
Europe, following the failure of the ideologies, is finally on the way
towards unity; it is struggling to meet the two-fold challenge of reconciliation
and the democratic integration of former enemies. Europe has not been spared
terrible forms of violence, as the recent Balkan crisis and the conflicts of
recent weeks in the Caucasus have shown. The Bishops of the continent recently
met in synodal assembly; they acknowledged the signs of hope, growing openness
between peoples, reconciliation between nations, more frequent cooperation and
exchange, and called everyone to a greater European consciousness.
Faced with this troubled world, at once magnificent and unstable, I am
reminded of a commitment made at the end of the terrible Second World War, which
everyone wanted to be the last. I am speaking of the Preamble to the Charter of
the United Nations, adopted in San Francisco on 26 June 1945: "We, the peoples
of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the
scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind,
and to reaffirm our faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth
of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations, large
and small . . . have resolved to combine our efforts to accomplish these aims".
This solemn text and this solemn commitment have lost nothing of their force
and their timeliness. In a world structured around sovereign but de facto
unequal States, it is indispensable for stability, understanding and cooperation
between peoples that international relations be increasingly imbued with and
shaped by the rule of law. Surely what is lacking is not new texts or juridical
instruments; it is quite simply the political will to apply without
discrimination those already in existence.
7. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, I speak to you as one who has
himself been a fellow-traveler of several generations of the century just ended.
I shared the harsh ordeals of my native people as the darkest hours experienced
by Europe. Twenty-one years ago, when I became the Successor of the Apostle
Peter, I felt myself charged with a universal fatherhood which embraces all the
men and women of our time without exception. Today, in addressing you who
represent practically all the peoples of the earth, I would like to share with
each one something personal: at the opening of the doors of a new millennium,
the Pope began to think that people might finally learn to draw lessons from the
past. Indeed, I ask everyone, in God's name, to save humanity from further wars,
to respect human life and the family, to bridge the gap between the rich and the
poor, to realize that we are all responsible for one another. It is God himself
who asks this, and he never asks what is beyond our abilities. He himself gives
us the strength to accomplish what he expects of us.
The words which Deuteronomy puts on the lips of God himself come to mind:
"See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil; . . .
therefore choose life, that you may live" (Dt 30:15-19). Life takes shape in our
daily choices. And political leaders, since they have the role of administering
the "res publica", can by their personal choices and their programs of action
guide whole societies either towards life or towards death. For this reason
believers, and the faithful of the Catholic Church in particular, consider it
their duty to take an active part in the public life of the societies to which
they belong. Their faith, their hope and their charity represent additional and
irreplaceable energies to ensure that not only will there be unfailing concern
for others, a sense of responsibility and the defense of fundamental rights, but
also to ensure that there is a perception that our world and our personal and
collective history are invested with a Presence. I therefore insist that
believers be granted a place in public life because I am convinced that their
faith and their witness can reassure our contemporaries, who are often anxious
and disoriented, and can ensure that despite failures, violence and fear,
neither evil nor death will have the last word.
8. The time has now come for our exchange of personal good wishes. I greet
all of you most cordially and I ask you kindly to convey my best wishes to the
leaders of the countries which you represent. The doors of the Great Jubilee
have been opened for Christians and the doors of a new millennium for humanity
as a whole. What is important now is to cross the threshold in order to make our
journey. This is a journey on which God precedes us and in which he traces the
path which will lead us towards himself. Nothing, no prejudice or ambition,
should hold us back. A new history is beginning for us. The peoples whom you
represent are going to write that history in their personal and collective life.
It is a history in which today, like yesterday and like tomorrow, humanity has
an appointment with God. And so to all I say: "Safe journey"!