Pope Urges Peace in New Year

And Respect for Dignity of the Person

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VATICAN CITY, JAN. 1, 2007 (Zenit.org).- If human rights are to be respected, the world's nations must first respect the dignity of the human person, Benedict XVI said on the first day of 2007.



The Holy Father made this comment today before praying the Angelus with crowds gathered in St. Peter's Square. Today the Church observes the solemnity of Mary the Mother of God and the World Day of Peace.

"At present there is much talk about human rights, but it is often forgotten that they need a stable -- not relative or debatable -- foundation," said the Pope.

The Pontiff said "this can only be the person's dignity. Respect for this dignity begins with the recognition and protection of the person's right to freely live and profess his religion."

Benedict XVI said: "I renew today my desire for peace to the rulers and leaders of nations and of international organizations and to all men and women of good will.

"I do so particularly with the special message I prepared -- with my collaborators of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace -- whose theme this year is: 'The Human Person, Heart of Peace.'"

The Pope said that the message he wrote for today affirms the essential point of the "value of the human person."

Person first

In his homily earlier today at a Mass held in St. Peter's Basilica, attended by many ambassadors accredited to the Holy See, the Pontiff also delivered a message of peace.

The Holy Father said that he is "profoundly convinced that peace is promoted by respecting the person."

Benedict XVI said: "Given the threats to peace, sadly always present, given the situations of injustice and violence, which persist in several regions of the earth, given the permanence of armed conflicts, often forgotten by general public opinion, and the danger of terrorism, which disturbs the serenity of nations, it is more necessary than ever to work together for peace."

The Pope said that peace is not only a gift but also a task, a "gift that must be invoked with prayer, a task that must be carried out with courage, without ever tiring."

Referring to the Holy Land, the Holy Father asked: "How can one not implore with insistent prayer that the day of peace come soonest, the day in which the ongoing conflict will be resolved definitively, which has already lasted for too long?"

Lasting peace

The Pontiff said that "to be lasting, a peace agreement must be supported by respect for the dignity and rights of every person."

The Bishop of Rome added: "The desire I articulate before the representatives of nations here present is that the international community join its efforts so that in the name of God a world is built where the essential rights of man are respected by all.

"For this to occur, it is necessary that the foundation of such rights is recognized not in simple human agreements but in the very nature of man and in the inalienable dignity of the person created by God."

Benedict XVI said that if "the constitutive elements of human dignity, including its rights, are entrusted to changing human opinions, even if solemnly proclaimed, they end up by becoming weak and variously interpreted."

The Pope commended to the Virgin Mary the New Year, "which we receive from God's hands as a 'precious' talent to make fruitful."