ROME – Pope Francis has lamented that war and conflict remain rampant despite the persistence of the coronavirus pandemic, and again condemned the investment in military operations over other pressing areas of necessity.

His words came in the message for the 55th World Day of Peace, which was released as at a press conference at the Vatican on Tuesday.

In the message, titled, “Dialogue between generations, education and work: Tools for building lasting peace,” Pope Francis said the modern pursuit of peace “remains sadly distant from the real lives of many men and women and thus from our human family, which is now entirely interconnected.”

Despite widespread efforts to encourage peaceful international dialogue, “the deafening noise of war and conflict is intensifying,” the pope said.

“While diseases of pandemic proportions are spreading, the effects of climate change and environmental degradation are worsening, the tragedy of hunger and thirst is increasing, and an economic model based on individualism rather than on solidary sharing continues to prevail,” he said.

As in the past, “in our own day the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth constantly make themselves heard, pleading for justice and peace,” he said.

The World Day of Peace is observed annually on Jan. 1, and usually outlines the pope’s social agenda for the year to come.

As the world continues navigating the impact of COVID-19, the pope in his message pointed to importance of investment in education, work, and intergenerational ties as essential to moving forward and building a better, post-pandemic world.

In developing solutions, “Great social challenges and peace processes necessarily call for dialogue between the keepers of memory – the elderly – and those who move history forward – the young,” he said.

Francis insisted that everyone, regardless of age or status, “must be willing to make room for others and not to insist on monopolizing the entire scene by pursuing their own immediate interests, as if there were no past and future.”

He also lamented that funding for education has been significantly reduced in recent years, yet “Military expenditures, on the other hand, have increased beyond the levels at the end of the Cold War and they seem certain to grow exorbitantly.”

In terms of work, Francis called labor “the foundation on which to build justice and solidarity in every community.”

“We need to combine our ideas and efforts in order to create the solutions and conditions that can provide everyone of working age with the opportunity, through their work, to contribute to the lives of their families and of society as a whole,” he said.

He also noted that many of the unemployed are migrants and refugees who are not recognized by their host country’s welfare system and therefore have no resources to survive, making them “prey to various forms of slavery” with no social protections.

Pope Francis thanked those “who continue to work with generosity and responsibility in the areas of education, safety and protection of rights, in supplying medical care, in facilitating meetings between family members and the sick, and in providing economic support to the needy and those who have lost their jobs,” and voiced his closeness to victims of the pandemic and their families.

He urged government leaders and all those with political or social responsibility, as well as priests and pastoral workers, to “walk together with courage and creativity on the path of intergenerational dialogue, education, and work.”

Follow Elise Ann Allen on Twitter: @eliseannallen