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UN Address Pope Benedict XVI

UN Address Pope Benedict XVI

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UN Address Pope Benedict XVI 18 April 2008
UN Address Pope Benedict XVI 18 April 2008

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Published by: St Felix Catholic Parish on May 11, 2008
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07/11/2009

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Pope Benedict XVI’s address to the United NationsGeneral Assembly on April 18 2008
[In French]Mr. President,Ladies and Gentlemen,As I begin my address to this Assembly, I would like first of all to express toyou, Mr. President, my deep gratitude for your kind words. My thanks go alsoto the Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, who has invited me to visit theheadquarters of this Organization and to thank him for the welcome he hasgiven me. I greet the Ambassadors and Diplomats of Member States, and allthose present. Through you, I send greetings the peoples whom yourepresent here. They expect this institution to carry forward the foundinginspiration to establish a "centre for harmonizing the actions of nations in theattainment of these common ends" of peace and development (cf. Charter of the United Nations, article 1.2-1.4). As Pope John Paul II expressed in 1995,the Organization must be "a moral center where all the nations of the worldfeel at home and develop a shared awareness of being, as it were, a ’familyof nations’" (Address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on the50th Anniversary of its Foundation, New York, 5 October 1995, 14).Through the United Nations, States have established universal objectiveswhich, even if they do not fully coincide with the total well-being of the humanfamily, nevertheless represent a fundamental part of it. The foundingprinciples of the Organization — the desire for peace, the quest for justice,respect for the dignity of the individual, and humanitarian cooperation andassistance — express the just aspirations of the human spirit, and constitutethe ideals which must underlie international relations. As my predecessorsPaul VI and John Paul II have observed from this very podium, this is all partof the realities that the Catholic Church and the Holy See regard attentivelyand with interest, seeing in your activity an example of how problems andconflicts affecting the world community can benefit from common settlement.The United Nations embodies the aspiration for a "greater degree of international ordering" (John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis, 43), inspired andgoverned by the principle of subsidiarity, and therefore capable of respondingto the demands of the human family through binding international rules andthrough structures capable of harmonizing the day-to-day unfolding of thelives of peoples. This is all the more necessary in the current context, whenwe are witnessing the obvious paradox of a multilateral consensus thatcontinues to be in crisis because it is still subordinated to the decisions of asmall number, while the world’s problems require from the internationalcommunity that it act on a common basis.Indeed, questions of security, the development goals, the reduction of inequalities, both locally and globally, the protection of the environment, of resources and of the climate, require that all international leaders act together 
 
and show a readiness to work in good faith, in respect of the rule of law, topromote solidarity in the most fragile regions of the planet. I am thinkingespecially of those countries in Africa and on other continents which are stillexcluded from authentic integral development, and are therefore at risk of experiencing only the negative effects of globalization. In the context of international relations, we must recognize the higher role played by rules andstructures that are intrinsically ordered to promote the common good, andtherefore to safeguard human freedom. These regulations do not limitfreedom. On the contrary, they promote it when they prohibit behaviour andactions which work against the common good, curb its effective exercise andhence compromise the dignity of every human being. In the name of liberty,there has to be a correlation between rights and responsibilities, on the basisof which every individual is called to shoulder responsibility for his or her choices, while taking into account relations with other people. Here our thoughts turn also to the way the results of scientific research andtechnological advances have sometimes been used. While recognizing theimmense benefits that humanity can draw from them, some of the usesconstitute a clear violation of the order of creation, to the point where not onlyis the sacred character of life contradicted, but the human person and thefamily are robbed of their natural identity. Likewise, international action topreserve the environment and to protect various forms of life on earth mustnot only guarantee a rational use of technology and science, but must alsorediscover the authentic image of creation. This never requires a choice to bemade between science and ethics: rather it is a question of adopting ascientific method that is truly respectful of ethical imperatives.Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innatedignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in theprinciple of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined,but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations, and isnow increasingly characteristic of its activity. Every State has the primary dutyto protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of humanrights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, theinternational community must intervene with the juridical means provided inthe United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The actionof the international community and of its institutions, provided that it respectsthe principles the underlie international order, should never be interpreted asan unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it isindifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed isa deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploringevery possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement toeven the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.The principle of "responsibility to protect" was considered by the ancient iusgentium as the foundation of every action taken by those in government withregard to the governed: at the time when the concept of national sovereignStates was first developing, the Dominican Friar Francisco de Vitoria, rightlyconsidered as a precursor of the idea of the United Nations, described this
 
responsibility as an aspect of natural reason shared by all nations, and theresult of an international order whose task it was to regulate relationsbetween peoples. Now, as then, this principle has to invoke the idea of theperson as image of the Creator, the desire for the absolute and the essenceof freedom. The founding of the United Nations, we all know, coincided withearth-shaking upheavals that humanity suffered when the reference to themeaning of transcendence and natural reason was abandoned, and inconsequence, freedom and human dignity were grossly violated. When thishappens, it threatens the objective foundations of the values inspiring andgoverning the international order and it undermines the cogent and inviolableprinciples formulated and consolidated by the United Nations. In the face of new and insistent challenges, it would be a mistake to fall back on apragmatic approach, limited to determining "common ground," minimal incontent and weak in its effect.This reference to human dignity, which is the foundation and goal of theresponsibility to protect, leads us to the theme we are specifically focusingupon this year, which marks the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declarationof Human Rights. This document was the fruit of a convergence of differentreligious and cultural traditions, all of them motivated by the common desireto place the human person at the heart of institutions, laws and the workingsof society, and to consider the human person essential for the world of culture, religion and science. Human rights are increasingly being presentedas the common language and the ethical substratum of international relations.Just like their universality, the indivisibility and interdependence of humanrights all serve as guarantees safeguarding human dignity. It is evident,though, that the rights recognized and expounded in the Declaration apply toeveryone by virtue of the common origin of the person, who remains the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history. They are basedon the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different culturesand civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would meanrestricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according towhich the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, socialand even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not beallowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is thehuman person, the subject of those rights.[In English]The life of the community, both domestically and internationally, clearlydemonstrates that respect for rights, and the guarantees that follow fromthem, are measures of the common good that serve to evaluate therelationship between justice and injustice, development and poverty, securityand conflict. The promotion of human rights remains the most effectivestrategy for eliminating inequalities between countries and social groups, andfor increasing security. Indeed, the victims of hardship and despair, whosehuman dignity is violated with impunity, become easy prey to the call to

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