Pope Francis lamented “cancel culture” in an address to diplomats at the Vatican on Monday.
Delivering his annual “state of the world” address on Jan. 10, the pope said that international organizations were increasingly pursuing “divisive” agendas at odds with the longstanding values of many countries.
“Not infrequently, the center of interest has shifted to matters that by their divisive nature do not strictly belong to the aims of the organization,” he said.
“As a result, agendas are increasingly dictated by a mindset that rejects the natural foundations of humanity and the cultural roots that constitute the identity of many peoples.”
“As I have stated on other occasions, I consider this a form of ideological colonization, one that leaves no room for freedom of expression and is now taking the form of the ‘cancel culture’ invading many circles and public institutions.”
While the pope delivered his address in Italian, he said the phrase “cancel culture” in English.
Speaking in the Apostolic Palace’s Hall of Blessings, the pope told representatives of the 183 states that have diplomatic relations with the Holy See that the “mindset” currently prevailing in international institutions ended up “canceling all sense of identity” while claiming to defend diversity.
He said: “A kind of dangerous ‘one-track thinking’ is taking shape, one constrained to deny history or, worse yet, to rewrite it in terms of present-day categories, whereas any historical situation must be interpreted in accordance with a hermeneutics of that particular time, not that of today.”
He went on: “Multilateral diplomacy is thus called to be truly inclusive, not canceling but cherishing the differences and sensibilities that have historically marked various peoples.”
“In this way, it will regain credibility and effectiveness in facing the challenges to come, which will require humanity to join together as one great family that, starting from different viewpoints, should prove capable of finding common solutions for the good of all.”
The pope did not offer any examples of the mindset he was deploring. But last month, he criticized a withdrawn document discouraging staff at the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, from using the word “Christmas.”
“The European Union must take in hand the ideals of the founding fathers, which were ideals of unity, of greatness, and be careful not to take the path of ideological colonization,” the pope told reporters as he flew home from Greece in December.
During the same in-flight press conference, he said it was vital to interpret a landmark report on abuse in the French Catholic Church over the past 70 years “with the hermeneutic of the time and not with ours.”
In his wide-ranging address, which lasted around 40 minutes, the pope reviewed his diplomatic activities in 2021 and touched on major global themes such as the coronavirus pandemic, immigration, climate change, and nuclear arms.
The live-streamed event in the gilded Hall of Blessings began with an address to Pope Francis by George Poulides, Cyprus’ ambassador to the Holy See and dean of the diplomatic corps.
“Thank you, Holy Father, for your untiring work, which is a source of hope for many peoples, for many men and women,” he said.
Speaking beneath a large tapestry depicting the nativity of Christ, the pope strongly endorsed COVID-19 vaccination campaigns.
“Sadly, we are finding increasingly that we live in a world of strong ideological divides,” he said. “Frequently people let themselves be influenced by the ideology of the moment, often bolstered by baseless information or poorly documented facts.”
“Every ideological statement severs the bond of human reason with the objective reality of things. The pandemic, on the other hand, urges us to adopt a sort of ‘reality therapy’ that makes us confront the problem head-on and adopt suitable remedies to resolve it.”
“Vaccines are not a magical means of healing, yet surely they represent, in addition to other treatments that need to be developed, the most reasonable solution for the prevention of the disease.”
The pope criticized what he called a “lack of resolute decision-making and clear communication” by the authorities amid the pandemic, which he said had created “a ‘social relativism’ detrimental to harmony and unity.”
He told the diplomats, who wore formal uniforms and face coverings, that he hoped to see renewed efforts so that “the entire world population can have equal access to essential medical care and vaccines.”
“I am aware of the difficulties that some states encounter in the face of a large influx of people. No one can be asked to do what is impossible for them, yet there is a clear difference between accepting, albeit in a limited way, and rejecting completely,” he said.
He added that international indifference made migrants easy prey for traffickers.
“Sadly, we must also note that migrants are themselves often turned into a weapon of political blackmail, becoming a sort of ‘bargaining commodity’ that deprives them of their dignity,” he said.
The pope did not mention any countries by name, but the European Union recently accused Belarus of trying to help thousands of mainly Middle Eastern migrants to enter the EU via the country’s border with Poland.
The 85-year-old pontiff also spoke about what he called “massive migration movements” in the Americas, concentrated on the border between Mexico and the United States.
“Many of those migrants are Haitians fleeing the tragedies that have struck their country in recent years,” he noted, underlining the need for international cooperation on migration.
Turning to the environment, the pope expressed some disappointment at the outcome of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Scotland.
“At the recent COP26 in Glasgow, several steps were made in the right direction, even though they were rather weak in light of the gravity of the problem to be faced,” he said.
“The road to meeting the goals of the Paris Agreement is complex and appears to be long, while the time at our disposal is shorter and shorter.”
“Much still remains to be done, and so 2022 will be another fundamental year for verifying to what extent and in what ways the decisions taken in Glasgow can and should be further consolidated in view of COP27, planned for Egypt next November.”
The pope then gave a brief overview of the world’s hotspots, beginning with Syria, where he said that the general population should not be penalized by sanctions as poverty stalks the country after more than 10 years of war.
He described the conflict in Yemen, which has claimed an estimated 377,000 lives since 2014, as “a human tragedy that has gone on for years, silently, far from the spotlight of the media and with a certain indifference on the part of the international community.”
“In the past year, no steps forward were made in the peace process between Israel and Palestine,” he noted, calling for direct talks.
He added: “Profound situations of inequality and injustice, endemic corruption and various forms of poverty that offend the dignity of persons also continue to fuel social conflicts on the American continent, where growing polarization is not helping to resolve the real and pressing problems of its people, especially those who are most poor and vulnerable.”
The pope also appealed for dialogue in Burma, the Southeast Asian country officially known as Myanmar that witnessed a military coup on Feb. 1, 2021.
“Its streets, once places of encounter, are now the scene of fighting that does not spare even houses of prayer,” he said, referring to the shelling of churches by security forces.
He encouraged new international efforts to rid the world of nuclear arms.
“The Holy See continues steadfastly to maintain that in the 21st-century nuclear arms are an inadequate and inappropriate means of responding to security threats, and that possession of them is immoral,” he said.
He added that he hoped to see positive results from the resumption of negotiations in Vienna, Austria, over the nuclear accord with Iran.
In a possible allusion to the outcry in Canada following the discovery of Indigenous children’s graves at a former Catholic-run residential school, the pope acknowledged child abuse in Catholic institutions.
He said: “The Catholic Church has always recognized and valued the role of education in the spiritual, moral and social growth of the young. It pains me, then, to acknowledge that in different educational settings — parishes and schools — the abuse of minors has occurred, resulting in serious psychological and spiritual consequences for those who experienced them.”
“These are crimes, and they call for a firm resolve to investigate them fully, examining each case to ascertain responsibility, to ensure justice to the victims, and to prevent similar atrocities from taking place in the future.”
Concluding his address, which was followed by a group photograph with diplomats in the Sistine Chapel, Pope Francis quoted the prophet Jeremiah’s words that God has “plans for [our] welfare and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope” (Jeremiah 29:11).
He said: “We should be unafraid, then, to make room for peace in our lives by cultivating dialogue and fraternity among one another. The gift of peace is ‘contagious’; it radiates from the hearts of those who long for it and aspire to share it, and spreads throughout the whole world.”
“To each of you, your families, and the peoples you represent, I renew my blessing and offer my heartfelt good wishes for a year of serenity and peace.”