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Pope Francis draws inspiration from John XXIII and Cold War to call for peace in 2023

Every January, Pope Francis meets with ambassadors to the Holy See. He delivers what often becomes his most political speech of the year. In his message, the Pope speaks about all the political and social problems in the world— from war to discrimination. 

This year, he began with the war in Ukraine and expressed his concern about the danger of a nuclear attack.

I can only reiterate that the possession of atomic weapons is immoral.

Pope Francis then lamented the Afghan government's ban on women going to university.

It is unacceptable that part of the population can be excluded from education, as is happening to Afghan women.

Pope Francis did not avoid speaking of the crisis in Iran. In fact, he called for the abolition of the death penalty.

The right to life is also threatened where the death penalty continues to be practiced, as is happening these days in Iran following recent demonstrations calling for greater respect for women's dignity. The death penalty cannot be used for supposed state justice as it neither deters nor offers justice to victims, but only fuels the thirst for revenge.

The Pope criticized throwaway culture—a common theme of his pontificate. In particular, he openly denounced euthanasia and abortion.

Peace demands first and foremost that we defend life—a good that today is endangered not only by conflict, hunger and disease, but, all too often, even from the womb, asserting a supposed "right to abortion."

Before the group of ambassadors, Pope Francis also condemned the lack of religious freedom in the world. 

I cannot fail to mention, as some statistics show, that every seventh Christian is persecuted.

The Pope not only spoke of religious persecution, but also about the discrimination many Christians face in more peaceful contexts.

Religious freedom is also endangered where believers see their ability to express their beliefs in the context of social life curtailed in the name of a misunderstood concept of inclusion.

Pope Francis criticized those who abuse their power and take advantage of the needs of the poorest countries, offering them aid in exchange for imposing certain ideological agendas.

There is a risk of a shift, which increasingly takes on the face of ideological totalitarianism, promoting intolerance against those who do not adhere to alleged positions of "progress," which in reality seem rather to lead to a general regression of humanity—with violations of freedom, of thought and conscience.  

At the same time, the Pope did not forget to call for an end to hostilities in Syria, between Israel and Palestine and in other war-torn parts of the world.

Pope Francis' speech repeatedly used references to the encyclical, "Pacem in Terris," written by his predecessor Pope John XXIII, who had also faced the threat of nuclear war.