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Ladies and Gentlemen,
I am honored to address this distinguished gathering. I would like to discuss a complex issue which is of great interest both to the Holy See and, personally, to Pope Benedict XVI.
Naturally, I do not speak as an expert in criminology or on the basis of experience in criminal police investigations. My intervention is meant to contribute to deeper reflection on the underlying issue of the deliberations of this General Assembly Session of Interpol: crime itself, or more properly, criminal behavior grounded in various motivations, at times even ascribed to religious convictions.
Criminal behavior is an intrinsic part of the human experience, just as the conflict of good and evil is part of the world’s history, and, for Christians, a part of God’s saving plan. It is precisely this realization that inspires the Holy See to participate, either as a member or an observer, in the meetings and conferences promoted by international organizations to discuss issues which ultimately deal with man himself, the human being viewed holistically and with respect for all his complexity. This can be clearly seen from the addresses which Popes Paul VI, John Paul II and Benedict XVI delivered before the United Nations General Assembly.
Perhaps we need hardly mention the importance of the mission of the United Nations at a time when we are experiencing the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus that continues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of a few, whereas the world’s problems call for interventions in the form of collective action by the international community. The phenomenon of globalization itself -- as Benedict XVI pointed out in his historic address before the United Nations Organization on 20 April 2008 -- cannot fail to concern the UN inasmuch as, by its essence, it constitutes "the locus of a worldwide sharing of problems and possible solutions".
The issue which needs to be faced is one closely linked to the process of globalization which is now affecting every aspect of the life of nations, peoples and individuals, and is accompanied by political and economic changes which are often uncontrolled and even uncontrollable. This in fact is what touches most closely the lives of nations and individual citizens. While it is true that globalization offers opportunities for development and enrichment, it is also true that it can cause increased poverty and hunger, which in turn can spark chain reactions often leading to widely disparate forms of violence. Nor can we underestimate the fact that the fruits of technological and scientific progress can, for all their enormous benefits to humanity, be used in a way that clearly violates the order of creation, even to the point of denying the sacredness of life and stripping the human person and the family of their natural identity.
In this complex situation, mankind finds itself at risk. What is the way to move forward? The Church never tires of insisting that it can only be done by respecting "ethical imperatives". Consistent with this stand, the Holy See continues to call for the promotion and protection of rights as sanctioned by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, above all the right to life and, not least, the right of religious freedom.
It is here that the role of organizations such as Interpol come into play. It is undeniable, in fact, that each state has the fundamental duty to protect its population. To protect it in every sense, not only from grave and continuous violations of human rights carried out in them and in the case of humanitarian crises, caused by nature as well as by man, but also to protect it from the most aberrant crimes that can be identified in the traffic of human beings or of organs, as well as in the ever more invasive sexual tourism, which disfigures the human and moral aspect of thousands upon thousands of minors.
In this context, thanks to the I-24/7 system, which allows in real time the exchange of information and the immediate and joint coordination of different police actions to counter transnational crimes, Interpol plays a decisive role, especially in the effective activity of prevention much appreciated by the Holy See.
And if each state is not up to the measure of guaranteeing an adequate protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided by the United Nations Charter and by the other international instruments. It is a duty that is included in the principle of the responsibility to protect, now ancient foundation of every action that governments must undertaken in regard to the governed.
Remaining firm in the knowledge that it is this fundamental principle on which one must be inspired for what is specific to the mission proper of the institutions represented here, it is also necessary to stress that the promotion of human rights in their totality remains the most effective strategy to eliminate the inequalities between countries and between social groups. And this cannot but have positive aspects in the area of security. It is undeniable, in fact, that the victims of privations and of despair -- whose human dignity is violated with impunity -- are easy prey to appeals to violence, and they can then become the people who violate the peace. And it is here that the dangers of wars and of terrorism are born.
It is good, however, to specify, and the Pope has not failed to recall it, that the respect of rights is due as much in expressions of justice, and not simply because they can be made to be respected by the will of legislators and the force of states.
The violation of human rights takes place today in the world in numerous, very numerous different ways. One of the most striking is that which involves at present the Christian communities of the Middle East. There was in recent days the very grave attack on the Syro-Catholic Cathedral of Baghdad, an act of unheard of ferocity against defenseless persons gathered to pray. For years now in Iraq, Christians have become the object of atrocious attacks, and the situation of the country has certainly become in itself ever more difficult. I myself, who spent some years of diplomatic service in Baghdad, lived the daily experience that the Christian minorities are constrained to live. The cathedral itself, object of the terrorist attack, is the largest place of worship of the Catholic community of that country. It is very evident, moreover, that the Muslim communities are also the object of grave acts of terrorism themselves -- one against the other, without any respect not only of the dignity of the human person, but also of membership in the same religion.
The Special Assembly for the Middle East of the Synod of Bishops, which was just held in the Vatican, denounced the numerous forms of violence to which the Christian communities in these regions are subjected, and which in the end, are constrained to flee. These are also crimes to be combated. But it must be done all together because, as Benedict XVI wrote in the message of condolence sent to Archbishop Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka [of Baghdad] of the Syro-Catholics, "peace is a gift of God, but it is also the result of the efforts of men of good will, of national and international institutions." His appeal was an appeal for all to join their forces to finally stop the violence.
Moreover, we very much appreciate the cooperation between Interpol and the Peace-Keeping Department of the United Nations. In fact, we believe that military operations oriented toward maintaining the peace, avoiding, where possible, imposing it, must justly be succeeded by the good preparation of police forces that will then succeed in maintaining timely and necessary relations also in the contexts of international cooperation.
The agreement between Interpol and the Peace-Keeping Department reinforces this concept, rendering it ever more active. In this way the police forces themselves and the law enforcement agencies that will be involved in the peacekeeping operations, and in those of peace building, will have greater incisiveness in the destabilized context in which they operate, being able to make available their experience in favor of peoples who live in regions of crisis, as well as make use of their technology to defend them. To address these contexts in a joint and coordinated way contributes also a further benefit in addition to the one mentioned earlier, namely, to avoid the duplication of efforts, useless especially under the economic and organizational aspect.
[Translation by ZENIT]
The Holy See has always recalled this urgent need, conscious of the fact that the desire for peace, the pursuit of justice, respect for the dignity of the person, humanitarian cooperation and assistance are expressions of the just aspirations of the human spirit and the ideals which ought to undergird international relations. The Holy See has done so vigorously, even in recent days, as for example by intervening in the current debate on disarmament at the United Nations and urging all parties to reach agreement on definitive and complete disarmament.
We are here today to renew, in one specific area, our commitment to cooperate in eliminating evil from the world. This is a enormous commitment if we think of the forces at play, yet we must remain undaunted. Indeed, we should be committed to even fuller cooperation.
I wish to conclude by expressing the Holy See’s deep appreciation to Interpol for the assistance it has given to the local police and emergency workers in the aftermath of grave natural catastrophes, such as those in East Timor, in Indonesia, and in other parts of the world. With its own charitable organizations ("Caritas Internationalis," "Cor Unum"), its worldwide network of local churches and the works of Sovereign Military Order of Malta, the Holy See considers Interpol to be a concrete support for the maintenance of order, for assistance to peoples affected by disasters and for the identification of victims.
The Holy See has wished to take part in Interpol because it is convinced of the nobility of the goals which this organization pursues, and the benefits which it provides to all its members.
This has also been clear in the case of the Holy Father’s many international journeys. Thanks to Interpol, the Holy See has always benefited from the information and logistical support provided by security services in the countries involved. In this way Interpol has contributed in no small measure to the successful outcome of His Holiness’s Apostolic Journeys.
I willingly take this occasion to express our friendship and our readiness to cooperate in working for the peace to which our world aspires. I also thank the organizers, who have offered me the opportunity to address this distinguished assembly.