Report. On the evening of December 31, in his ninth end-of-year address from the Quirinal Palace, Sergio Mattarella said that we cannot merely talk about peace: it must become a priority of governments.

Sergio Mattarella: ‘Peace today is not abstract’

President Mattarella spoke of peace as a mindset, as a culture: “Talking about peace today is not abstract do-gooderism. On the contrary, it is the most urgent and concrete practice of realism, if we are willing to look for a way out of a crisis that can be devastating for the future of humanity.”

On the evening of December 31, in his ninth end-of-year address from the Quirinal Palace, Sergio Mattarella said that we cannot merely talk about peace: it must become a priority of governments, including in the Middle East, in Gaza, where there are many thousands of civilian casualties. “Peace” was the word he used the most in his speech: 11 times in his 16-minute address, followed by “violence” and “war.”

These are all signs of the climate of concern at the Quirinal Palace. The president did not hide his “distress” about the spread of violence, among states and within societies – starting with violence against women. Speaking about the tragic femicide of Giulia Cecchettin, he addressed young men directly: “Love is not selfishness, possession, domination, misunderstood pride. True love is more than respect: it is a gift, unconditionality, sensitivity.”

But violence can also be found elsewhere, in the hatred that spreads online, in the “awful tendency to pick out adversaries or even enemies, against whom one then practices forms of aggression, including through the most serious and unfounded accusations, often crossing the boundary that separates the true from the false.”

Mattarella didn’t downplay any of the serious ills afflicting Italy: public healthcare waiting lists with “unacceptably long” waiting times, “underpaid” work, “not in line with expectations and studies,” tax evasion, work “under unfair conditions and with poor job security,” university housing costs that are “unaffordable for most families.” He also stressed “the enormous differences in pay between the super-privileged few and the many who live in hardship.”

“Young people feel out of place: disoriented, if not alienated from a world they cannot understand,” warned the head of state, not resigning himself to seeing young people on the margins, often distant from politics and tempted to not vote at all. He explained that real participation doesn’t mean being on social media or answering a poll, but is “a right to freedom.”

“The strength of the Republic lies in its unity. It doesn’t come from a power that imposes itself.” Unity is “an inner disposition that recognizes itself in the founding values of our civilization: solidarity, freedom, equality, justice, peace. The values that the Constitution lays down as the foundations of our coexistence.”

Mattarella added that he had seen these values at work in the past year: among the young people shoveling mud in Romagna after the floods, among those working at the properties confiscated from the Camorra, among those with autism who took part in the Pizza Aut initiative, among the women who mobilized to say no to gender violence.

His examples, carefully chosen, “already tell the story of our future,” he said – or, at least, the president’s own hopes. He also expressed his concern about to the world disorder produced by an old balance of powers that is ending without a new one having arisen, as well as the risks arising from artificial intelligence: “We must ensure that the revolution we are experiencing remains a human one, inscribed within that tradition of civilization for which the person – and their dignity – is the irreplaceable pillar.”

The focus on the risks of AI was one he shared with Pope Francis: the two had a warm exchange of good wishes in their respective speeches. At the center of Francis’s homily, beside the strong call for peace in Ukraine and Palestine and the heartfelt denunciation of violence against women which “defiles God,” was also an expression of alarm about the new technologies which must be put “in the service of the human family and build paths towards brotherhood.”

On Monday, on the occasion of the 57th World Day of Peace, Mattarella wrote to Francis to join his call for “the powerful new technologies to be humanized, to serve the common good and not to be mere instruments of partisan interests” – or, even worse, end up being used to produce increasingly destructive weapons. To achieve this, the President wrote, we need “global governance” of AI that ensures human control over technology: “Unlike artificial intelligence, the intelligence of human beings is illuminated by conscience.”

The end-of-year speech from the Quirinal Palace was watched live by 10.6 million Italians and received praise from all parts of the political spectrum. The Prime Minister had a telephone conversation with the President in which she emphasized that they were in full agreement on jobs and healthcare.

According to Elly Schlein, Mattarella “reaffirmed the values of the Constitution: peace and social justice, for the progress of democracy.” Giuseppe Conte saw his message as “an unequivocal push to change things, to not resign ourselves” to the horrors of war and underpaid labor. Maurizio Landini called the president a “builder of peace”: “He bravely pointed us towards the high road to follow: the full implementation of the Constitution.”

Meanwhile, Salvini, in usual form, took the opportunity to call himself a victim of a climate of hatred and falsehood.

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