ROME— By now the world has gotten used to Pope Francis doing multiple things in one day, generating several headlines. His Wednesday general audience wasn’t an exception, producing several new flashes in just half an hour: Syria, the fight against AIDS/HIV and the parents’ right to choose their children’s education.

As is always the case, Francis began his Wednesday general audience with a reflection in Italian. This week, he spoke about the spiritual work of mercy of “praying for the living and the dead” and its corresponding corporal work of mercy, “burying the dead” (See CNA report).

But after his weekly reflection, with the aid of several interpreters, he addressed the crowd that had gathered in the Paul VI audience hall in several languages, from English to Arabic, in each giving a different message after a short summary of his words was read.

Here’s what he said, and why it matters.

An appeal to all: The fight against AIDS/HIV

December 1, Thursday, is the United Nations-promoted World Day against AIDS.

Francis addressed this day, saying: “Millions of people live with this disease, but only half of them have access to therapies that can save their lives. I ask you to pray for them and for their relatives, and to foster solidarity so that also the poor can access diagnostics and adequate treatment.”

“I also ask that everyone use responsible behavior to prevent the spread of this disease,” he concluded.

Although often forgotten because of the Vatican’s stance against the mass distribution of condoms as the solution to stop this disease from spreading, the Catholic Church is actually the largest private provider of AIDS care in the world, giving antiretroviral treatment, home-care visits and counseling to one in four of the world’s 36.7 million AIDS patients.

When Pope Francis was elected in 2013, UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, released a statement congratulating him on the election and confirming the statistics, originally released by Caritas Internationalis.

The statement from the UN agency also says it “values its close working relationship with the Catholic Church and the Holy See, particularly on critical issues such as the elimination of new HIV infections in children and keeping their mothers alive, as well as increasing access to antiretroviral medication.”

Statistics show that since the beginning of the epidemic, an estimated 78 million people have become infected with HIV, and some 35 million have died of AIDS-related illnesses.

UNAIDS, with the help of governments and faith-based organizations, is currently leading a campaign to end the AIDS epidemic by 2030, as part of the sustainable development goal. It’s estimated that in 2015, 2.1 million people were infected with HIV. The target is for the number to be less than half a million in five years, and less than 200,000 new infections in fifteen.

Around 40 percent of all people living with HIV don’t know that they have the virus.

In the words of Nigerian Cardinal John Onaiyekan, who earlier in the year spoke to Crux on this issue, “Everybody agrees that there are three ways to prevent AIDS: Abstain, Be faithful in marriage, and Condoms. I ask, why is it that almost all the resources and energy are being spent on C? We hardly see any plan of action for A and B.”

The prelate was in Rome participating in a conference for faith-based organizations on HIV/AIDS, co-sponsored by the Catholic charity Caritas, UNAIDS, the Vatican’s Pediatric Hospital “Bambino Gesu,” and PEPFAR, a U.S. program for AIDS relief.

“They [international aids agencies] have seen on the ground what we’re doing fighting AIDS,” he argued. “There’s more to AIDS and HIV than condoms: education, and I don’t mean schools, I mean simply to inform the people. The local churches and mosques have done a lot to inform the people what HIV is caused by and what it’s not. We’ve also spoken about the need to know your status: go and get tested. Governments don’t succeed much in this, but we do, and it’s not taken into consideration.”

Addressing Arabic-speaking pilgrims, a reminder that the world is at war

“I give a cordial greeting to all the pilgrims of the Arab language, particularly to those coming from Syria and the Middle East,” he said. “We pray together for the living, the dead, and for those who live dying of the fear caused by war, terror, violence and the loss of their homeland and their dear ones.”

Francis added a prayer for the many “courageous people” who risk their lives giving burial to the dead and aid to the wounded.

Dozens of volunteers of the Syrian Red Crescent, an aid group working in the battled country have been killed amidst bombings as they were trying to deliver help to besieged cities. In Aleppo, which once was the second most important city in Syria, hospitals and clinics have been bombed time and time again. Earlier in the month, in fact, the last hospital operating in East Aleppo was destroyed by airstrikes.

And then there’s also the fact that in Syria and Iraq, as well as other countries, there are “mass graves” with dozens, up to hundreds, of unidentified bodies. These people are abandoned and denied “proper burial,” but most of them haven’t been forgotten, as they were once someone’s mother, brother or child.

Speaking to Portuguese-speaking pilgrims, prayers for those who died in the plane crash

“I would like to remember today the suffering of the Brazilian people for the tragedy involving the soccer team, and to pray for the dead players, and for their families,” Francis said.

“In Italy we understand the meaning of this event, because we remember the Superga air disaster of 1949. These are hard tragedies. We pray for them,” he added.

The pope was referring to the plane crash in Colombia on Monday night where 71 people lost their lives, 19 of them members of the Chapecoense soccer club who had been on the brink of greatness.

Also appealing to all, a call to protect the world’s cultural heritage

His last words were dedicated to giving a shout-out to a December 2-3 international conference on the protection of the cultural heritage in conflict zones, taking place in Abu Dabi.

The conference is being organized by France and the United Arab Emirates, under the auspices of the UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO.

The pontiff regretted that the theme of the gathering is “starkly current.”

“In the conviction that the protection of cultural treasures constitutes an essential dimension in the defense of what it is to be human, I hope that this event marks a new step in the process of the implementation of human rights,” he said.

In August 2015, the terrorist group ISIS released a video showing the fiery destruction of the Temple of Baalshamin, one of the best-preserved ruins at the Syrian site of Palmyra.

The group also used bulldozers to topple the walls of the Christian monastery Mar Elian, near Palmyra. This place, dedicated to a 4th-century saint was once an important pilgrimage site and sheltered hundreds of Syrian Christians.

This 2015 National Geographic piece has details on the destruction caused by ISIS alone.

To Italian pilgrims: defend the parents’ right to educate their children

Among those present in Wednesday’s audience were the members of an Italian federation of institutes dedicated to education. To them, he said: “I invite you to continue in the path of supporting Catholic schools, so that parents’ freedom to choose their children’s education is always safeguarded.”

Pope Francis has spoken about this before. For instance, in May 2015, he denounced the fact that parents have “exiled themselves from educating their children,” but also had critical words to the “intellectual critics” who he said have “silenced” parents in order to defend younger generations from real or imagined harm, and lamented how schools now are often more influential than families in shaping the thinking and values of children.

“In our days the educational partnership is in crisis. It’s broken,” he said, and named various reasons for this.

“On one hand there are tensions and distrust between parents and educators; on the other, there are more and more ‘experts’ who pretend to occupy the role of parents, who are relegated to second place,” he said at the time.