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Pope lists four great challenges for humanity

In his annual address to the Vatican diplomatic corps yesterday, Pope John Paul II set out four challenges facing the world's leaders: the defence of life, the conquest of hunger, the pursuit of world peace, and the advance of religious freedom.

Each year, as he exchanges his New Year's greetings with the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, the Pope traditionally provides an overview of the Vatican's leading concerns regarding international affairs. This year, Catholic World News reports, John Paul II offered the 174 members of the diplomatic corps a thorough rundown of world affairs.

John Paul II began his address by welcoming the diplomats, and saying that through their presence at the Vatican, the ambassadors of the world's countries "in a certain way make visible the great family of the nations."

The Pope reflected that the year 2004 had ended with great sadness because of the devastation caused by the tsunami in southeast Asia. He said that the Church, in the face of this tragedy, recalls the message of hope made visible in Bethlehem with the birth of Christ, and the assurance that God never leaves man alone in his suffering. He said that the Church always works to ease suffering and promote human dignity, and went on to explain the purpose of Vatican diplomacy: "The Catholic Church, because of her universal nature, is always directly engaged in the great causes for which the men and women of our age struggle and hope."

The Holy Father then listed the four great challenges that face mankind. First he spoke of the threats against the dignity of human life, which have "grown in scale and urgency in recent years." The most severe challenge occur at the beginning of human life, he said, referring to "abortion, assisted procreation, the use of human embryonic stem cells for scientific research, and cloning." But he also pointed to the threats against "the very sanctuary of life: the family." He argued that the family, based on marriage, "must never be undermined by laws based on a narrow and unnatural vision of man."

Next the Pope spoke about world hunger, observing that although the world provides more than enough food to feed all its inhabitants, "hundred of millions of human beings are suffering from grave malnutrition, and each year millions of children die of hunger or its effects." He urgently called for new and inventive approaches to providing adequate and stable sources of nutrition for the hungry. The obligation to feed the poor falls upon everyone, the Pope said. He concluded: "While this principle cannot be used to justify collectivist forms of economic policy, it should serve to advance a radical commitment to justice and a more attentive and determined display of solidarity."

The "encouraging signs" that the Pope saw regarding the pursuit of peace were not limited to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. John Paul also praised the African Union for its efforts to end civil wars there. And he added: "Certainly an outstanding example of the possibility of peace can be seen in Europe: nations which were once fierce enemies locked in deadly wars are now members of the European Union."

Finally the Pope spoke of religious liberty, "a right which is not yet sufficiently or adequately recognized." He insisted that government can allow their people the full freedom to practice their faiths, without fearing that religious groups would interfere with secular government. "Neither should there be a fear that religious freedom, once granted to the Catholic Church, would intrude upon the realm of political freedom and the competencies proper to the state," the Pope said; "the Church is able carefully to distinguish, as she must, what belongs to Caesar from what belongs to God."

Because the advanced symptoms of Parkinson's disease make it difficult for Pope John Paul to speak clearly, he did not read the entirety of his address. The bulk of the prepared text, which was written and delivered in French, was read by Msgr. Francois Duthel, an official of the Secretariat of State. However, after the formal speech, the Pope did remain in the Regia Hall, to greet several of the senior diplomats and their wives individually.

Pope lists 4 great challenges for mankind (Catholic World News 10/1/05)

Address of His Holiness Pope John Paul II to the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See for the traditional exchange of New Year greetings

Pope's "state of the world" address to Vatican diplomats (CathNews 13/1/04)
** On the defence of life
Pope says euthanasia distorts medical ethics (CathNews 15/11/04)
Pope condemns torture as affront to humans (CathNews 28/5/04)
Pope calls removing feeding tubes immoral (CathNews 22/4/04)
Pope warns against genetic manipulation of human life (CathNews 4/2/03)
Pope issues fresh cloning denunciation (CathNews 14/1/03)
** On the conquest of hunger
Pope tells Brazil to protect family in struggle against poverty (CathNews 13/10/04)
Pope denounces 'imbalance' of wealth (CathNews 27/9/04)
Pope's speech reflects concern over privatisation of water (CathNews 5/3/04)
Pope urges initiatives for "just and sustainable development" (CathNews 30/10/03)
Pope urges authentic "church of the Poor" (CathNews 26/9/03)
Pope says science must benefit poor (CathNews 26/2/03)
* On the pursuit of peace
Pope's Peace Day message that violence can't solve problems (CathNews 17/12/04)
Pope says politicians must take responsibility for peace (CathNews 6/4/04)
Pope condemns Spain terror attacks (CathNews 12/3/04)
Pope takes Bush to task on war (CathNews 7/1/04)
Pope insists peace remains possible (CathNews 17/12/03)
Pope says prayer can bring peace (CathNews 31/10/03)
Pope expresses pessimistic outlook for world peace (CathNews 9/9/03)
Pope says peace means more than international accords (CathNews 24/4/03)
Pope says truth in media serves cause of peace (CathNews 26/3/03)
Pope's peace messenger has face to face with Bush (CathNews 7/3/03)
Pope tells world: Don't resign yourself to war (CathNews 10/2/03)
Pope proposes 1963 encyclical as response to terrorism (CathNews 5/7/02)
** On the advance of religious freedom
John Paul II appeals to Iran for religious freedom (CathNews 2/11/04)
Religious freedom wins Pope support for Taiwan (CathNews 2/2/04)

Papal call to end Cuban embargo (Catholic World News 10/1/05)
In wake of tragic year, Pope says to the world-"Do not be overcome by evil" (Catholic News Agency 10/1/05)
Pope Challenges New Cuban Ambassador to Promote Religious Freedom (Catholic News Agency 10/1/05)
Papal Advice to Young People: Be Not Afraid to Follow Christ (Zenit 9/1/05)

11 Jan 2005