National Day of the Holy See: the 9th anniversary of Pope Francis' election


On Sunday 13 March 2022, the Apostolic Nunciature celebrated the Holy See's national holiday, which coincides with the anniversary of the election of His Holiness Pope Francis. To mark the occasion, the Apostolic Nunciature offered a reception to the diplomatic corps accredited to the State of Kuwait, the Religious operating in Kuwait, the Representatives of the Christian Churches and other religious denominations and all the friends of the Nunciature. The Government of Kuwait was represented at the event by His Excellency Minister Plenipotentiary Hamad Sulaiman Al-Meshaan, Assistant Foreign Minister for Development and International Cooperation Affairs. His Grace Msgr. Eugene M. Nugent, Apostolic Nuncio, gave a brief speech of greeting and thanks:

H.Ex. Minister Plenipotentiary Hamad Sulaiman Al-Meshaan, Assistant Foreign Minister for Development and International Cooperation Affairs,

Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers and Sisters, Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen. Friends!

I am very grateful to all of you who have come here this evening and who honour us with your presence. Your presence here honours especially the person in whose name we gather: His Holiness Pope Francis.

The Holy See is unusual in many respects, not least in the fact that it doesn't have an Independence Day, or a foundation day or a liberation day. And yet we are gathered here this evening to celebrate its official holiday, namely the anniversary of the election of the current Bishop of Rome who, according to tradition, is the 266th Pope of the Catholic Church.

Briefly, Pope Francis is the first Pope who is a member of the Society of Jesus, the Congregation founded by St Ignatius of Loyola, better known as the Jesuits; the first non-European Pope since the Syrian Pope Gregory III in the VIIIth Century. He is also the first Pontiff from the American continent and the first Pope who has taken the name Francis, a name chosen in memory of St Francis of Assisi, who is considered as the precursor in interreligious dialogue.

When Pope Francis visited the United Arab Emirates in February 2019, a visit that opened a new chapter in interreligious dialogue, he declared: "There is no alternative: either we build the future together or there will be no future". Today, humanity holds its destiny in its hands: it can choose life or death; war or peace. In this critical moment we do not know what the future will hold. We are living through dark days. We are witnessing a horrendous war in Ukraine; a war that was unprovoked and that will have unforeseen consequences for the world. The loss of life, the senseless destruction of property and the displacement of people are just too painful to watch. At the Angelus prayer in the Vatican last Sunday, the Pope said: "Rivers of blood and tears are flowing in Ukraine. It is not merely a military operation but a war, which sows death, destruction and misery...". These words referring to the war in Ukraine can sadly be applied to all the other wars raging around the world at this moment. We hope that even today those who sow devastation will finally reject war and choose the path of diplomacy and dialogue that will lead to peace. "There is no alternative: either we build the future together or there will be no future".

Last year, Pope Francis visited Iraq and in a few months time he will visit the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan, countries that have seen more than their fair share of war and bloodshed.

The pontificate of Pope Francis over the past 9 years is an eloquent example of engagement for the common good. Indeed, the great esteem that people hold for Pope Francis, whether they are Catholics, Christians, Moslems, Jews, or those of other religions and none, stems from the simplicity of his lifestyle and the moral authority that comes from the way in which he lives his faith. The great discussions of our time on such themes as war and peace; politics and religion, globalization and cultural diversity, religious fundamentalism and secularism, the migration crisis, the environment, social inequalities; - these too are among the great themes constantly evoked by His Holiness in his speeches, his writings and in his meetings with world leaders. His Encyclical letter Laudato Si has become an obligatory reference for all who are dealing with the environment and the challenges of climate change, just to cite this one example.

In the name of Pope Francis, I greet the distinguished representatives of Government, my colleagues in the Diplomatic Corps, academics, artists, the Catholic clergy, the religious Sisters, the representatives of Islam and the Christian Churches; the Italian military authorities, the members of Kuwaiti civil society and all the friends of the Apostolic Nunciature - more commonly called the Vatican Embassy. I would like to thank the management and staff of the Crowne Plaza Hotel for their hospitality and professionalism. Likewise, I thank the choirs who sang our 2 National Anthems. I hope you noticed that one choir, the Maronite Catholic choir sang the Kuwaiti national anthem. Next year, I hope we could have a Kuwaiti choir that might sing the Vatican national anthem. That would be a good example of interreligious dialogue in action through song. Thank you to the two choirs.

My dear colleagues and friends: At this point allow me to reaffirm the commitment of the Holy See and the Catholic Church in Kuwait to continue to invest its human and material resources with all the expertise that it can call upon in the areas of education, health care, community development and the promotion of human rights. Perhaps without boring you too much, I feel it is useful to remind ourselves that the Catholic Church is a worldwide institution that has over 1.345.000.000 members; with over 152,000 Catholic schools, 600 Catholic universities, 5,200 Catholic hospitals, 15,000 dispensaries and health centers and around 60,000 institutes for humanitarian assistance.

It is a great honour for me to represent Pope Francis in Kuwait. As we emerge from the Covid19 pandemic, let us continue to work together to bring about the vision of His Holiness Pope Francis for a more just and equitable society, for greater respect for one another and for a real fraternity.

To all my Kuwaiti friends here present and to all the authorities, I express the hope of continuing our joint efforts to promote greater social cohesion and the common good.

In conclusion, allow me to assure HH Sheikh Nawaf Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah, the Amir of the State of Kuwait, of the prayers of the 300,000 strong Catholic community in Kuwait as well as their respect and esteem.

Thank you. Enjoy the evening!