Justice and Peace President on UN Declaration

"Sure Guide for the Promotion of the Dignity of the Human Person"

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VATICAN CITY, DEC. 11, 2008 (Zenit.org).- Here is the address Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, delivered Wednesday at a concert held in Paul VI Hall to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.



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Eminences, Excellencies, Ambassadors, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am especially happy to open this celebratory event, promoted and organized by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. With this event, the Holy See wishes to confirm its appreciation for the document of the United Nations, expressed so many times by the Supreme Pontiffs and, at the same time, indicate the value of human rights, how they are formalized in it, as a sure guide for the promotion of the dignity of the human person in our time.

The program planned for this intense evening has three parts. The first is dedicated entirely to reflection on the contents of the Declaration with two significant and authoritative interventions by His Eminence Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, His Holiness' secretary of state, and Juan Somavia, director-general of the International Labor Organization. They will furnish us with the most appropriate coordinates for an adequate understanding of the Declaration, which was able to offer a sure orientation to humanity's path after the dramas of World War II and which remains an indispensable point of reference to build a future of justice and peace for the whole of humanity.

The second part will be dedicated to awarding the Cardinal ardinal Văn Thuận prizes, conferred by the St. Matthew Foundation in memory of Cardinal Văn Thuận. The foundation is closely connected with the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and entirely dedicated to spreading the social doctrine of the Church. The award is presented to those that distinguished themselves in the field of defense and promotion of human rights. In memory of Cardinal Văn Thuận, man of God and Christian full of hope, whose cause of beatification is under way, the prizes will be conferred on Doctor Cornelio Sommaruga for his effort in the promotion of humanitarian law when he was president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and on the following persons and institutions that, in one way or another, have given concrete realization to the most noble exigencies contained in the Universal Declaration: Father Pedro Opeka, the GULUNAP Project, the project Villaggio degli Ercolini, and Father Raul Matte.

The commemorative event will end with a concert of classical music -- effectively supported by Vacheron-Constantin, which will be performed by the Brandenburgisches Staatorchester of Frankfurt, directed by maestro Inma Shara with the participation of pianist Boris Berezovsky. To render this final part particularly precious and rich, the Holy Father Benedict XVI will be with us who, with his presence and his word, will offer all the most eloquent proof of the importance that the Catholic Church assigns to the promotion of the fundamental rights of man, as instrument to affirm, always and everywhere, the dignity and centrality of the human person, created in the image and likeness of God and redeemed by the Lord Jesus.

There is a long Catholic tradition on the subject of human rights. This historic itinerary of the Christian tradition of human rights has certainly not been a peaceful itinerary. There were, in fact, on the part of the magisterium also many reservations and condemnation in face of the affirmation of the rights of man in the wake of the French Revolution; but such reservations, repeatedly manifested by the Pontiffs, especially in the 19th century, were due to the fact that such rights were proposed and affirmed against the liberty of the Church, in a perspective inspired by liberalism and secularism. The dominant individualism made the claims of the rights of man to be transmuted into affirmations of the individual's rights more than those of the person, namely of the human being divested of the social dimension and deprived of transcendence. Such is the image of man considered as the measure of all things, absolute creator of the moral law, consigned to a destiny of pure immanence.

In the Catholic vision, a correct interpretation and an effective tutelage of the rights depends on an anthropology that embraces the totality of the constitutive dimension of the human person. Human dignity, which is "equal in every person," therefore, the ultimate reason for which the rights can be claimed first of all because they are children of one and the same Father, not by reason of their ethnic, racial and cultural membership. The ensemble of the rights of man must correspond, therefore, to the essence of the dignity of the person. They must refer to the satisfaction of his essential needs, to the exercise of his liberty, to his relations with other persons and with God. The reference to the human person, to his integral being, obliges us to single out the ultimate source of human rights[1] beyond the mere will of human beings,[2] of the state, but in man and in God his Creator. The rights, belonging originally and intrinsically to persons, are therefore natural and inalienable.[3] Thank you for your participation and your encouraging support!

[1] John Paul II, UN Address, Oct. 2, 1979, 13-14.

[2] Cf. John XXIII, Encyclical Letter "Pacem in Terris," 45.

[3] Cf. John XXIII, "Pacem in Terris," 46.

[Translation by ZENIT]