Pope calls for new ethical values
Pope Benedict XVI on Monday called for new ethical values in the financial crisis in a gloomy world outlook that also pointed to rising violence in Africa and the fallout from Arab Spring revolts.
"I cannot fail to address before all else the grave and disturbing developments of the global economic and financial crisis," the pope said in his yearly speech to foreign ambassadors accredited with the Vatican.
"The crisis can and must be an incentive to reflect on human existence and on the importance of its ethical dimension, even before we consider the mechanisms governing economic life," he told his Vatican audience.
He said the debt crisis in Europe and the United States was an opportunity "to give ourselves new rules which ensure that all can lead a dignified life and develop their abilities for the benefit of the community as a whole."
The pope has repeatedly emphasised the human aspect of the crisis and stressed that while financial market jitters had initially affected mainly the most developed countries in the world they were now hitting poorer states.
The pope's speech was being closely watched for clues on Vatican policy in 2012 and this year the focus was on anti-Christian violence in Nigeria as well as broader concern about the consequences of the Arab revolutions.
The rise of Islamist political forces in North Africa following last year's revolutions in Egypt, Libya and Tunisia has raised hackles in the Vatican over the future of Christian minorities in the region, particularly in Egypt.
The pope said initial enthusiasm following the revolutions had waned and these countries were now in a state of uncertainty and transition.
"It seems evident to me that the best way to move forward is through the recognition of the inalienable dignity of each human person and of his or her fundamental rights," he said.
"Respect for the person must be at the centre of institutions and laws.
"The building of stable and reconciled societies, opposed to every form of unjust discrimination, particularly religious discrimination, represents a much vaster horizon than that of short-term electoral gains," he added.
In Syria, where there has been a 10-month bloody conflict between the government and the opposition, the pope called for a "fruitful dialogue between the political forces, encouraged by the presence of independent observers."
Turning to Africa, the pope said the goal of reconciliation was "distant" and spoke of his deep concern about the situation in Nigeria.
"It is essential that cooperation between Christian communities and governments favour progress along the path of justice, peace and reconciliation, where respect is shown for members of all ethnic groups and all religions," the pope said.
He also pointed to the continuing violence in Ivory Coast and Somalia, as well as instability in the Great Lakes region and South Sudan and the humanitarian emergency in the drought-stricken Horn of Africa region.
Another issue weighing on the pope's mind was the now familiar refrain of legislation in many Western countries allowing gay unions, abortion and adoption of children by gay couples -- reforms seen as threats by the Vatican.
"The family, based on the marriage of a man and a woman ... is not a simple social convention, but rather the fundamental cell of every society," he said.
He added: "Policies which undermine the family threaten human dignity and the future of humanity itself."