The Holy Father gave his annual New Year Address to the diplomatic corps today. After summing up his own international travels and other activities (especially the Holy Year of Mercy) and some of the Holy See's major diplomatic undertakings during the past year, the Pope spoke at some length about the migration and refugee crisis - including a passing reference to his upcoming visit to the U.S.-Mexico border at Ciudad Juarez next month. He left no doubt that the migration and refugee crisis is a top priority for him - and, therefore, for the Church. He also threw down this challenge to the rich and powerful nations of the world:
Many of the causes of migration could have been addressed some time ago. So many disasters could have been prevented, or at least their harshest effects mitigated. Today too, before it is too late, much could be done to end these tragedies and to build peace. But that would mean rethinking entrenched habits and practices, beginning with issues involving the arms trade, the provision of raw materials and energy, investment, policies of financing and sustainable development, and even the grave scourge of corruption. We all know, too, that with regard to migration there is a need for mid-term and long-term planning which is not limited to emergency responses. Such planning should include effective assistance for integrating migrants in their receiving countries, while also promoting the development of their countries of origin through policies inspired by solidarity, yet not linking assistance to ideological strategies and practices alien or contrary to the cultures of the peoples being assisted.
And in his overview of developments, both positive and negative, in the international situation, the Pope devoted an entire paragraph to nuclear agreement with Iran and the climate agreement at the recent Paris conference:
2015 witnessed the conclusion of important international agreements, which give solid hope for the future. I think first of the so-called Iran nuclear deal, which I hope will contribute to creating a climate of détente in the region, as well as the reaching of the long-awaited agreement on climate at the Paris Conference. This significant accord represents for the entire international community an important achievement; it reflects a powerful collective realization of the grave responsibility incumbent on individuals and nations to protect creation, to promote a “culture of care which permeates all of society” [Laudato Si', 231]. It is now essential that those commitments prove more than simply a good intention, but rather a genuine duty incumbent on all states to do whatever is needed to safeguard our beloved earth for the sake of all mankind, especially generations yet to come.
The realities of the Middle East are so negative right now that the Iran agreement really is practically the only potentially positive thing to have happened in that region recently. It remains to be seen, of course, whether or not it will actually accomplish its goal. Likewise, the Parish agreement really represents but the barest minimum of progress toward what needs yet to be achieved. That the most powerful nation in the world still harbors climate-change deniers among its political class is not only a moral disgrace for the United States but also represents a serious danger to continued progress in this vital area.