Millions are facing hunger as driest weather in decades ravages the Horn of Africa Millions are facing hunger as driest weather in decades ravages the Horn of Africa 

Pope’s peace message: a singer, an economist, a nun, and a cardinal reflect

At a press conference in the Vatican, a diverse group offer their reflections on the Pope’s 2023 World Peace Day message, and the legacy of the Covid-19 pandemic.

By Joseph Tulloch

A press conference was held in the Vatican on Friday to mark the release of Pope Francis’s 2023 World Peace Day message.

It drew an unusual assortment of speakers: an Italian singer-songwriter, an economist from the UN, Cardinal Michael Czerny, and Sister Alessandra Smerilli.

The cardinal

Cardinal Czerny, Prefect of the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, began by evoking the struggles of the early days of the pandemic: we had “no sound information about the disease, no treatments, no strategies for prevention”, he said, while “decision- makers gave higher priority to the claims of patent-holders than to people’s needs around the world.”

The Pope’s World Peace Day message, Cardinal Czerny said, invites us to reflect back on this terrible period, and ask ourselves what it might teach us.

“What lessons can we learn from this moment of crisis?”, he asked. “What signs of life and hope can we collect despite this difficult time? After all we have suffered, what should be our vision of humanity and of society for the future? What are Covid-time’s lessons for peace?”

The nun

Sister Alessandra, who is Secretary of the same Dicastery, picked up on this theme, saying that the Pope’s message “invites us to return to the frightening, difficult and painful times of the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, and asks us to reflect bravely on what we have learnt and on the opportunities we have failed to seize.”

“You cannot come out of a crisis the same, Pope Francis has said from the very beginning: either you come out better, or you come out worse. This is the moment to ask ourselves, as individuals and as a community: three years on, are we better or worse off?”

The singer

In his meditation, Simone Cristicchi, an Italian singer and past winner of the prestigious Sanremo music festival, focused on just three words from the Pope’s message, offering a short reflection on each one.

The first of these was “attention”, and the second “humility”. Cristicchi’s longest meditation, however, concerned the word “care”, which, he said, “contains the other two within itself.”

“In each of us there is this fragility,” he said, “this sense of separation from something. From the moment we are thrown into the world, from the moment we leave our mother's womb, we seek that sense of wholeness, which can be found in love, in the embrace of a friend or of the Divine.”

Care, Cristicchi continued, is also at the core of his song “Abbi cura di me” (Take care of me), first performed at Sanremo in 2019, which he then sang for those present.   

The economist

Dr. Maximo Torero, Chief Economist at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation, which worked closely with the Dicastery for Integral Human Development during the Covid pandemic, took the opportunity to discuss the horrifying scale of global hunger.

“As many as 828 million people faced hunger in 2021, an increase of 150 million since 2019,” he said. “Most recent projections indicate that more than 670 million people could still not have enough to eat in 2030. This is a far cry from the “zero hunger” target that the world ambitiously committed to less than a decade ago.”

He stressed the importance, in this regard, of the Pope’s call for global fraternity.

“We must understand we all need each other and, if we don’t act with fraternity and solidarity, we won’t be able to resolve the tremendous challenges we are facing today. As the Pope says, we need “together” at the centre.”

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16 December 2022, 16:52