Pope Benedict XVI, addressing diplomats accredited with the Holy See on Monday, denounced what he said was "scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular."
Benedict reflected on the past year beginning with the "cause for deep satisfaction," brought about the decision in December to establish full diplomatic relations between the Vatican and Russia, DPA reported.
He also stressed as "very significant," the December 2009 visit to the Vatican by Vietnam's communist President Nguyen Minh Triet.
"Vietnam is a country close to my heart, where the Church is celebrating her centuries-long presence by a Jubilee Year," Benedict said.
"In this spirit of openness, throughout 2009 I met many political personalities from all over the world; I also visited some of them and would like to continue to do so, in so far as is possible," the 82-year-old pontiff added.
The year 2010 continues to be marked by the "dramatic crisis of the global economy and consequently a serious and widespread social instability," Benedict said, adding that the causes are to be found "in a current self-centred and materialistic way of thinking which fails to acknowledge the limitations inherent in every creature."
Benedict reiterated what has become a major theme of his pontificate since it began in 2005: the degradation of the environment.
"If we wish to build true peace, how can we separate or even set at odds the protection of the environment and the protection of human life, including the life of the unborn?," Benedict said, referring to the Catholic Church's stance against abortion.
There is a need for a "great programme of education aimed at promoting an effective change of thinking and at creating new lifestyles," to which religious people wanted to contribute by playing a public role Benedict said.
"Sadly, in certain countries, mainly in the West, one encounters in political and cultural circles, as well in the media, scarce respect and at times hostility, if not scorn, directed towards religion and towards Christianity in particular," the pontiff added.
In his address, Benedict said there is an urgent need to promote a "positive and open secularity" which could "foster healthy cooperation and a spirit of shared responsibility," with people who hold religious beliefs.