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Holy See's Address to New Human Rights Council

6/27/2006 - 6:00 AM PST

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"The Holy See Believes in Man"

GENEVA, JUNE 27, 2006 (Zenit) - Here is a translation of the address Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, Vatican secretary for relations with states, delivered June 20 to the new U.N. Human Rights Council.

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Mr. President,

I wish first of all to express my congratulations on your election to the directorship of the present session of the Human Rights Council, in a particularly significant moment for the life of the United Nations organization, whose objective is directly linked to the respect and safeguarding of human rights.

The new Human Rights Council constitutes an important stage in the struggle oriented to placing man at the center of all political activity, national and international. We have arrived at a key moment: The international norms of human rights, which already recognize the essential elements of man's dignity as well as each of the fundamental rights that derive from it, now seek the creation of procedures in view of guaranteeing the effective enjoyment of these rights.

The Holy See wishes to contribute to the present debate, in keeping with its nature and specific perspectives, always in view of offering an essentially ethical reflection, which helps in decisions of a political order that must be made here.

In the law and conscience of today's international community, the dignity of man is manifested as the seed from which all rights are born and substitutes itself to the sovereign and autonomous will of states as the ultimate foundation of all juridical systems, including the international juridical system. It is an irreversible evolution but, at the same time, it is easy to see that in many countries the realization of this supreme principle has not been accompanied by an effective respect of human rights.

On the contrary, a bird's-eye view of the world shows us that the situation of human rights is worrying. If we consider the whole of the rights enunciated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, in international treaties relative to economic, social and cultural rights, in civil and political rights, as well as in other instruments, there is not one that is not gravely violated in numerous countries, unfortunately also in some of the members of the new council.

What is more, there are governments that continue to think that power determines, in the last instance, the content of human rights and, therefore, consider themselves authorized to take recourse to aberrant practices. To impose birth control, to deny the right to life in certain circumstances, to attempt to control the conscience of citizens and access to information, to deny access to a public judicial process and the right to self-defense, to repress political dissidents, to limit immigration without distinctions, to allow work in degrading conditions, to accept the discrimination of woman, to restrict the right of association, are some examples of the most violated rights.

Importance of the new council

The new Human Rights Council is called to close the breach between the whole of the enunciations of the system of conventions of human rights and the reality of their application in the different parts of the world. All the member states of this council should assume individually and collectively the responsibility of their defense and promotion.

At the same time, the hierarchical organization of the most important bodies of the United Nations manifests clearly the desire of the organization to renew its credibility in the eyes of world public opinion. In fact, the council can and must be the instrument that orients all international and national policies towards what, according to the desire of a Pope who always supported the great cause of the United Nations, constitutes its raison d'etre: "Service to man, the assumption, full of solicitude and responsibility, of the problems and essential tasks of his earthly existence, in their social dimension and scope, on which at the same time the good of each person depends" (Cf. John Paul II's address to the United Nations General Assembly, Oct. 2, 1979, no. 6).

Right to life, to freedom of conscience and of religion

Mr. President:

If the principle of the inalienable worth of the human person is -- as we believe -- the source of all human rights and of the whole social order, allow me to underline two essential corollaries:

The first is the affirmation of the right to life from the first moment of human existence, that is, from conception until its natural end: Man and woman are persons by the simple fact that they exist, and not because of their more or less developed capacity to express themselves, of entering into relationships or of making their rights count. A government, a group or an individual can never arrogate to itself the right to decide on the life of a ...

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