Pope: promote human rights everywhere, founded, in the end, in God creator

11 December 2008 


Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The path towards full respect of human rights worldwide remains long, human rights that are “ultimately founded in God creator”: “if this solid ethical base is ignored, then these rights remain weak because they are devoid of a solid foundation”. 

With these words this evening, Benedict XVI concluded Vatican commemorations of the anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the Paul VI audience hall.

 Organised by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, celebrations began with a study and reflection session which saw interventions by Vatican secretary of state Card. Tarcisio Bertone, the Director General of the World Labour Organisation, Juan Somavia, and the presence among others, of the Italian President Giorgio Napolitano. At the end of the session a concert was given by the Brandenburghisches Staatsorchester from Frankfurt, under the direction of Spanish maestro Inma Shara, the first woman to direct a symphonic orchestra in the Vatican.

 “Sixty years ago –noted the Pope – on December 10th, the General Assembly of the United Nations, gathered in Paris, adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which still today constitutes a high reference point for inter-cultural dialogue on the freedom and rights of humanity.  The dignity of each man and woman is only truly guaranteed when his or her fundamental rights are recognised, safeguarded and promoted. 

The Church has always that fundamental rights, above and beyond the diverse formulations and weight they may carry within various cultures, are a universal fact, because they are innate to the very nature of man.  Natural law, written by God within human conscience, - continued the Pope – is a common denominator between all men and all peoples; it is a universal guide that everyone can recognise and thanks to which people can understand each other.  

And so, human rights are ultimately founded in God the creator, who gave each one of us intelligence and freedom.  If we ignore this solid base, human rights will remain weak because devoid of a solid foundation”.

“The celebration of the 60th anniversary of the Declaration – noted the Pope – is the perfect opportunity for us to verify to what measure the ideals, accepted by the vast majority of the community of Nations in 1948, are observed today in the various national legislations, more over, in the collective and individual conscience. 

Without doubt, we have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go: the right to life, freedom and security of hundreds of millions of our brothers and sisters are still under threat; the dignity and equality of each individual is not always respected, while in our very midst new barriers are being erected for reasons linked to race, religion, political opinion or other convictions.  This is why the common commitment to promote and better define human rights must never cease and efforts to guarantee their respect be intensified”.

During the commemorative congress, Cardinal Bertone in his observations on human rights, highlighted the value of religious freedom as a “fundamental right”;  “the object of this right, is not the intrinsic content of one determined religious faith, but immunity from all coercion,  a security zone capable of guaranteeing the inviolable space in which every believer and the community in which he expresses his beliefs are free to act, without outside pressures from persons, social groups or authorities, whomever they may be. 

It is an evident fact that religion has a direct influence on the internal life of States and the International Community.  Despite this, there are increasing indications of trends that seem to want to exclude religion and the rights connected to it from the possibility of concurring in the building of social order, even in full respect of that pluralism which distinguishes contemporary society”.

Religious freedom, continued the cardinal “risks being confused with freedom of worship, or of being interpreted as an element which belongs to the private sphere, thus being replaced by the indeterminate “right to tolerance”.  And this by ignoring that religious freedom as a fundamental right surpasses religious tolerance, which was solidly anchored to a relative vision of individualism without limits. 

Analogously, it is the current international outlook that allows this tendency to emerge that relegates religion to a cultural dimension or amalgamates it with traditional folklore and practices.  This vision is not far removed from syncretism and forgets that religion, and the rights and freedoms connected to it, is an indicator of the deepest aspirations that a person through his behaviour aims to reach”.
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