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S+L AT THE PAPAL VISIT: Pope Benedict Addresses the UN

Matthew Harrison

Friday, April 18, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI arrived in New York Friday morning and was whisked away to the United Nations Headquarters, where he delivered a historic address to the General Assembly.
Calling the human person the “the high-point of God’s creative design for the world and for history,” Pope Benedict spoke of universal rights and the human person:
“They are based on the natural law inscribed on human hearts and present in different cultures and civilizations. Removing human rights from this context would mean restricting their range and yielding to a relativistic conception, according to which the meaning and interpretation of rights could vary and their universality would be denied in the name of different cultural, political, social and even religious outlooks. This great variety of viewpoints must not be allowed to obscure the fact that not only rights are universal, but so too is the human person, the subject of those rights.”
The Holy Father also called on international leaders to work together in security, development goals, reduction of local and global inequalities, protection of the environment, resources and the climate. He encouraged a solidarity between stronger nations and weaker regions:
“I am thinking especially of those countries in Africa and other parts of the world which remain on the margins of authentic integral development, and are therefore at risk of experiencing only the negative effects of globalization. In the context of international relations, it is necessary to recognize the higher role played by rules and structures that are intrinsically ordered to promote the common good, and therefore to safeguard human freedom.”
Pope Benedict spoke of an accountability – where people and nations must be accountable for their choices – and cautioned against the “sacred character of life” being contradicted, and the human person and family robbed of their “natural identity.”
There was also an emphasis on the human family, the family of nations. He said if other nations experience a humanitarian crisis, either man-made or natural, other nations should reach out to those nations in distress. The Holy Father repeated the Holy See's endorsement of the “responsibility to protect" international relations doctrine, the development of which some attribute to John Paul II's 1995 UN address.
The Pontiff called the UN a privileged setting in which the Church is “committed to contributing her experience of humanity," and at the conclusion of the address, Pope Benedict quoted one of his writings:
“In my recent Encyclical, Spe Salvi, I indicated that “every generation has the task of engaging anew in the arduous search for the right way to order human affairs” (no. 25). For Christians, this task is motivated by the hope drawn from the saving work of Jesus Christ. That is why the Church is happy to be associated with the activity of this distinguished Organization, charged with the responsibility of promoting peace and good will throughout the earth.”
To read the Holy Father's entire address, click HERE.

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