Pope Francis delivers a speech to all of the world’s ambassadors to the Vatican on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. / Credit: Vatican Media

Rome Newsroom, Jan 8, 2024 / 08:55 am (CNA).

Pope Francis called surrogacy “deplorable” and called for a global ban on the exploitative practice of “so-called surrogate motherhood” in a speech to all of the world’s ambassadors to the Vatican on Monday.

“The path to peace calls for respect for life, for every human life, starting with the life of the unborn child in the mother’s womb, which cannot be suppressed or turned into an object of trafficking,” Pope Francis said Jan. 8.

“In this regard, I deem deplorable the practice of so-called surrogate motherhood, which represents a grave violation of the dignity of the woman and the child, based on the exploitation of situations of the mother’s material needs. A child is always a gift and never the basis of a commercial contract.”

The pope then called on the international community to prohibit the practice of surrogacy universally.

“At every moment of its existence, human life must be preserved and defended; yet I note with regret, especially in the West, the continued spread of a culture of death, which in the name of a false compassion discards children, the elderly and the sick,” he added.

Pope Francis’ strong condemnation of surrogacy came during his annual foreign policy speech to all of the ambassadors accredited to the Holy See. 

In the 45-minute speech in the Vatican’s gilded Hall of Blessings, the pope underlined the importance that “humanitarian law” is upheld by the international community to “ensure the defense of human dignity in situations of warfare.”

“Modern wars no longer take place only on clearly defined battlefields, nor do they involve soldiers alone,” he said. 

“In a context where it appears that the distinction between military and civil objectives is no longer respected, there is no conflict that does not end up in some way indiscriminately striking the civilian population. The events in Ukraine and Gaza are clear proof of this.”

The pope’s annual speech to diplomats has been called his “state of the world” address because it is one of a handful of times that the pope addresses global crises and specific conflicts happening around the world all at once. 

Pope Francis delivers a speech to all of the world’s ambassadors to the Vatican on Monday, Jan. 8, 2024. Credit: Vatican Media

Notably, China was only mentioned in relation to the earthquake last month, which Pope Francis listed among “disasters that human beings cannot control.” The United States was also referenced only once by name during the pope’s appeal for migrants, in which he said that people risk their lives along dangerous routes journeying “through the north of Mexico to the border with the United States.” 

The Holy See has full diplomatic relations with 184 states, as well as the European Union and the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. In the city of Rome, there are 91 diplomatic missions accredited to the Holy See.

Last year, the Holy See established diplomatic relations with the country of Oman, the oldest independent state in the Arab world. Pope Francis also highlighted in his speech the diplomatic developments with Vietnam, where the Vatican sent an appointed papal representative for the first time last year.

Here is what Pope Francis had to say about some of the crises in different countries and specific issues in his 2024 speech:

Israel and Palestine

“I cannot fail to reiterate my deep concern regarding the events taking place in Israel and Palestine. All of us remain shocked by the Oct. 7 attack on the Israeli people, in which great numbers of innocent persons were horribly wounded, tortured, and murdered, and many taken hostage. I renew my condemnation of this act and of every instance of terrorism and extremism. This is not the way to resolve disputes between peoples; those disputes are only aggravated and cause suffering for everyone. Indeed, the attack provoked a strong Israeli military response in Gaza that has led to the death of tens of thousands of Palestinians, mainly civilians, including many young people and children, and has caused an exceptionally grave humanitarian crisis and inconceivable suffering.”

“To all the parties involved, I renew my appeal for a cease-fire on every front, including Lebanon, and the immediate liberation of all the hostages held in Gaza. I ask that the Palestinian people receive humanitarian aid, and that hospitals, schools, and places of worship receive all necessary protection.”

“It is my hope that the international community will pursue with determination the solution of two states, one Israeli and one Palestinian, as well as an internationally guaranteed special status for the City of Jerusalem, so that Israelis and Palestinians may finally live in peace and security.


“The situation in Nicaragua remains troubling: a protracted crisis with painful consequences for Nicaraguan society as a whole, and in particular for the Catholic Church. The Holy See continues to encourage a respectful diplomatic dialogue for the benefit of Catholics and the entire population.”


“Sadly, after nearly two years of large-scale war waged by the Russian Federation against Ukraine, the greatly desired peace has not yet managed to take root in minds and hearts, despite the great numbers of victims and the massive destruction. One cannot allow the persistence of a conflict that continues to metastasize, to the detriment of millions of persons; it is necessary to put an end to the present tragedy through negotiations, in respect for international law.”


“I would also call the attention of the international community to Myanmar, and plead that every effort be made to offer hope to that land and a dignified future to its young, while at the same time not neglecting the humanitarian emergency that the Rohingya continue to experience.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan

“I also express my concern for the tense situation in the South Caucasus between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and I urge the parties to arrive at the signing of a peace treaty. It is urgent that a solution be found to the dramatic humanitarian situation of those living in that region, while favoring the return of refugees to their own homes in legality and security and with respect for the places of worship of the different religious confessions present there. These steps will help contribute to the building of a climate of trust between the two countries, in view of the greatly desired peace.”


“I once more affirm the immorality of manufacturing and possessing nuclear weapons.  In this regard, I express my hope for the resumption, at the earliest date possible, of negotiations for the restart of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the ‘Iran Nuclear Deal,’ to ensure a safer future for all.”


“Turning our gaze to Africa, we are witnessing the suffering of millions of persons as a result of the numerous humanitarian crises that various sub-Saharan countries experience due to international terrorism, complex social political problems, and the devastating effects of climate change. Added to these are the effects of the military coups d’état that have occurred in several countries and certain electoral processes marked by corruption, intimidation, and violence.”

“At the same time, I renew my appeal for serious efforts on the part of all engaged in the application of the November 2022 Pretoria Agreement, which put an end to the hostilities in Tigray.”

“I would also like to bring up the tragic events in Sudan where sadly after months of civil war no way out is in sight, and the plight of the refugees in Cameroon, Mozambique, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and South Sudan.”

Technology and AI

“It is essential that technological development take place in an ethical and responsible way, respecting the centrality of the human person, whose place can never be taken by an algorithm or a machine. The inherent dignity of each human being and the fraternity that binds us together as members of the one human family must undergird the development of new technologies and serve as indisputable criteria for evaluating them before they are employed, so that digital progress can occur with due respect for justice and contribute to the cause of peace.”

“Consequently, careful reflection is required at every level, national and international, political and social, to ensure that the development of artificial intelligence remains at the service of men and women, fostering and not obstructing — especially in the case of young people — interpersonal relations, a healthy spirit of fraternity, critical thinking, and a capacity for discernment.”

Religious freedom

“It is painful to note, for example, that an increasing number of countries are adopting models of centralized control over religious freedom, especially by the massive use of technology.”

“… Of particular concern is the rise in acts of anti-Semitism in recent months. Once again, I would reiterate that this scourge must be eliminated from society, especially through education in fraternity and acceptance of others.” 

“Equally troubling is the increase in persecution and discrimination against Christians, especially over the last 10 years. … Altogether, more than 360 million Christians around the world are experiencing a high level of discrimination and persecution because of their faith, with more and more of them being forced to flee their homelands.”


“2023 was the warmest year on record in comparison with the 174 years previous. The climate crisis demands an increasingly urgent response and full involvement on the part of all, including the international community as a whole.”

“ … At COP28, it became clear that the present decade is critical for dealing with climate change. Care for creation and peace ‘are the most urgent issues and they are closely linked.’”

2024 elections

“2024 will witness elections being held in many nations.  Elections are an essential moment in the life of any country, since they allow all citizens responsibly to choose their leaders.”

“… It is important, then, that citizens, especially young people who will be voting for the first time, consider it one of their primary duties to contribute to the advancement of the common good through a free and informed participation in elections. Politics, for its part, should always be understood not as an appropriation of power, but as the ‘highest form of charity,’ and thus of service to one’s neighbor within a local or national community.”

Jubilee year

“This year the Church is preparing for the holy year that will begin next Christmas. … Today, perhaps more than ever, we need a holy year. Amid many causes of suffering that lead to a sense of hopelessness not only in those directly affected but throughout our societies; amid the difficulties experienced by our young people, who instead of dreaming of a better future often feel helpless and frustrated; and amid the gloom of this world that seems to be spreading rather than receding, the jubilee is a proclamation that God never abandons his people and constantly keeps open the doors to his kingdom.”

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