During the annual papal address to ambassadors to the Holy See, Pope Francis decried the “‘throwaway culture’ which spares nothing and no one: nature, human beings, even God himself.”

“From the very start, [Christ] is cast aside, left out in the cold, forced to be born in a stable since there was no room in the inn,” the Pope said on January 12. “If this is how the Son of God was treated, how much more so is it the case with so many of our brothers and sisters.”

“Losing their freedom, people become enslaved, whether to the latest fads, or to power, money, or even deviant forms of religion,” the Pope said. Various forms of enslavement “are born of a corrupt heart, a heart incapable of recognizing and doing good, of pursuing peace.”

Lamenting manifestations of the throwaway culture, the Pope decried the Peshawar school massacre in Pakistan, the Charlie Hebdo shooting in Paris, and conflicts in Ukraine and the Holy Land.

The Pontiff also decried the persecution of Christians and others by “fundamentalist terrorism” in Syria and Iraq. “This phenomenon is a consequence of the throwaway culture being applied to God. Religious fundamentalism, even before it eliminates human beings by perpetrating horrendous killings, eliminates God himself, turning him into a mere ideological pretext.”

Denouncing kidnapping and human trafficking, the Pope said that “comparable acts of brutality” are taking place in Nigeria. Lamenting conflicts elsewhere in Africa, he said, “Nor can we overlook the fact that wars involve another horrendous crime, the crime of rape.”

Pope Francis lamented other aspects of the throwaway culture, including “the way the sick are treated; often they are cast aside and marginalized like the lepers in the Gospel.”

“Together with lives thrown away because of war and disease, there are those of numerous refugees and displaced persons,” he said, referring to the dangers that face migrants and refugees in the Mediterranean and the Americas.

The throwaway culture, the Pope continued, manifests itself in families.

“There are many other hidden exiles living in our homes and in our families,” he said. “I think especially of the elderly, the handicapped and young people. The elderly encounter rejection when they are considered a burdensome presence, while the young are thrown away when they are denied concrete prospects of employment to build their future.”

“Then too, the family itself is not infrequently considered disposable, thanks to the spread of an individualistic and self-centered culture which severs human bonds and leads to a dramatic fall in birth rates, as well as legislation which benefits various forms of cohabitation rather than adequately supporting the family for the welfare of society as a whole,” he continued.

The Pontiff attributed the throwaway culture in part to

a model of globalization which levels out differences and even discards cultures, cutting them off from those factors which shape each people’s identity and constitute a legacy essential to their sound social development. In a drab, anonymous world, it is easy to understand the difficulties and the discouragement felt by many people who have literally lost the sense of being alive. This tragic situation is aggravated by the continuing economic crisis, which fosters pessimism and social conflict.

In the concluding portion of his address, Pope Francis pointed to signs of hope, including Albania’s interreligious harmony, Jordan’s willingness to assist refugees, the renewed communication between the United States and Cuba, and negotiations to end various conflicts.

Pope Francis concluded:

In his visit to the UN headquarters fifty years ago, my predecessor, Pope Paul VI, noted that “the blood of millions, countless unheard-of sufferings, useless massacres and frightening ruins have sanctioned the agreement that unites you with an oath that ought to change the future of the world: never again war, never again war! It is peace, peace, that has to guide the destiny of the nations of all mankind.”

This is likewise my own hope-filled prayer for this new year, which, for that matter, will see the continuation of two significant processes: the drawing up of the Post-2015 Development Agenda, with the adoption of Sustainable Development Goals, and the drafting of a new Climate Change Agreement. The indispensable presupposition of all these is peace, which, even more than an end to all wars, is the fruit of heartfelt conversion.

With thanks to Catholic World News

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