Recently Pope Benedict XVI gave his annual address to the Holy See diplomats. The common thread of the speech focused on the youth, the importance of education, and the state of world affairs. The Pope highlighted the importance of the family, religious freedom, world peace, and at the end dedicated a section on the environment, below:
Finally I would stress that education, correctly understood, cannot fail to foster respect for creation. We cannot disregard the grave natural calamities which in 2011 affected various regions of South-East Asia, or ecological disasters like that of the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. Environmental protection and the connection between fighting poverty and fighting climate change are important areas for the promotion of integral human development. For this reason, I hope that, pursuant to the XVII session of the Conference of States Parties to the UN Convention on Climate Change recently concluded in Durban, the international community will prepare for the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (“Rio + 20”) as an authentic “family of nations” and thus with a great sense of solidarity and responsibility towards present and future generations.
The Pope hit on some key issues which will be played out in the upcoming Rio + 20 sustainable development conference sponsored by the UN. The explicit themes of the conference and green economies and governance. I have talked to several experts recently who will be in Rio for the UN conference, and the focus truly seems to be shifting towards a focus on human dignity and poverty. The covert issue is of course climate change and recent failures in meeting popular expectations for action are leading to a greater focus on energy access and adaptation – the climate change expression of solidarity and preferential option for the poor. Seems like the Holy Father is on the right track.
Beyond the environmental focus, CNA has a good summary of the speech and some interesting remarks by diplomats who attended the address:
Australian Ambassador Timothy Fischer was among the members of the Diplomatic Corps who attended Monday’s address. He told Vatican Radio it was a “very sober message from the Pope,” starting off the year in “a very sobering world.”
One hopeful sign mentioned by the Pope was the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian discussions under a Jordanian initiative. Mordechay Lewy, Israel’s ambassador to the Holy See, told Vatican Radio he was pleased that “the Holy Father saw the light in the window” and “encouraged the lights to be stronger.”
Palestine’s representative to the Vatican Chawki Armali also welcomed the Pope’s statement but also lamented the obstacles he sees standing in the way of peace, such as the ongoing construction of settlements by the Israelis.