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Pope Francis delivers his message during his annual audience with diplomats, at the Vatican, Monday, Jan. 11, 2016. (Alessandro Bianchi/Pool Photo via AP)

By Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, Jan 10, 2020

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at See full bio.

The Pope’s “State of the World” address—his annual speech to the Vatican diplomatic corps—is always a major event for Vatican-watchers. Especially so this year, when the papal address came so soon after the US drone strike that killed Iran’s General Soleimani and sent tensions spiraling in the volatile Middle East. Pope Francis was guilty of understatement, if anything, when he remarked that “the new year does not seem to be marked by encouraging signs.”

Still, while Pope Francis was clearly distressed by the American action, and appealed for restraint and dialogue, the crisis in the Middle East was not the focal point of his speech. The Holy Father devoted more attention to his own proposal for a “global compact on education”—an initiative that will be launched at a “worldwide event” on May 14. The Pontiff described this effort as a bid “to rekindle our commitment to and with young people,” to provide for “a process of education and the creation of an educational village capable of forming a network of open and human relationships.”

This grand papal plan—a response to what Pope Francis called an era of “epochal change”—would involve a serious bid to address climate change, to protect the environment, to stimulate “ecological conversion” of the sort contemplated by the Amazon Synod. It’s clearly an ambitious undertaking, although the exact details of the plan are quite unclear. ….

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