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Benedict XVI on the Path to Peace (Part 1)

Paolo Carozza Comments on Pontiff's Message

SOUTH BEND, Indiana, JAN. 11, 2007 (Zenit) - On the World Day of Peace, Benedict XVI warned that the path to peace will be uncertain and wayward if it is not paved with a "true integral humanism."

According to Paolo Carozza, the words of Benedict XVI reaffirm what Pope John Paul II had said about peace being the fruit of relationships of justice and solidarity.

Carozza, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, shared with us how Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace highlighted the role of principles such as the dignity of life, religious freedom and equality among all persons in working toward peace.

Part 2 of this interview will appear Friday.

Q: The title of Benedict XVI's message for the World Day of Peace, "The Human Person, the Heart of Peace," addresses the rights and dignity of the human person as the path to peace. In what ways does this confront the conventional wisdom of the international diplomatic community?

Carozza: There certainly is a sharp difference between this vision and an approach to peace based merely on the diplomatic, economic, and military relations between sovereign states that some approaches to international peace and security would emphasize. Nevertheless, there is an important sense in which Benedict XVI's point is not new, but in fact picks up and strengthens an understanding of the path to peace that has been present to a significant degree in global affairs at least since World War II.

The architects of the post-1945 international order were highly conscious of the relationship between outrages to the dignity of the human person and the tragedy of war, and that link can already be seen clearly in the Charter of the United Nations and in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, as the Pope himself recognizes in the message.

In fact, I would say that in much of the world the strong connection between peace and the rights and dignity of the person is now accepted as self-evident. One can see it in the way that the language and politics of human rights has permeated everything from international trade to post-conflict institution building to environmental protection.

Where Benedict XVI goes much further than the prevailing mentality is in his insistence that it is not enough to simply assert -- however correctly -- the link between peace and human dignity. To make that connection real and concrete, not just an abstract ideal or intuition of the truth, one needs to cultivate an adequate and objective understanding of what the human person is, and what human dignity requires.

Benedict XVI thus takes us back to what Mary Ann Glendon has referred to as the "unfinished business" of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights: the question of its foundations. For 60 years the international community has largely proceeded to try to develop and realize human rights though positive law while prescinding from any sustained effort to reach common understandings of their underlying source and scope.

In short, the difference between the vision in Benedict XVI's message and the conventional wisdom of international affairs is not so much in the affirmation that the dignity and rights of the human person are the path to peace, but rather in the Pope's warning that that path will be uncertain, unstable and wayward without a "true integral humanism" that embraces the whole human person as a concrete, given reality -- without reduction, without manipulation, and without ideology.

Q: Natural law is a central theme in the Pope's message, and he sees it as a point of convergence among the various cultures and civilizations, rather than a peculiarly Western idea. Why is natural law an important component for peace?

Carozza: Perhaps the most eloquent answer to this question is not in the words of the Pope's message or in any explanation of it that we could give, but in the witness of his presence in Turkey and the way that in great simplicity he was able to bridge what seems to many an unfathomable chasm in human understanding. He did so by a profound appreciation for and firm focus on what is common to every human heart.

In that recognition of our common humanity lies the only path to a peace that is more than merely the absence of violent conflict. As John Paul II often emphasized and Benedict XVI reaffirms in this message, peace is the fruit of relationships of justice and solidarity, a mutual and genuine commitment to the good of one another. And that commitment only arises out of the mutual recognition of what we share -- the original needs and desires of every human heart.

Thus Benedict XVI stresses that the personal commitment that is required of us to renew the world in peace and justice can only ...

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