By John Norton
NEW YORK CITY — Pope Benedict XVI outlined a vision of a stronger role for the United Nations based on “the unity of the human family and the innate dignity of every man and woman.”
In a speech to the U.N. General Assembly in New York City Friday morning, the pope said that religions are a force for peace by promoting coexistence and reconciliation, but that it was better when “the religious sphere is kept separate from political action.”
He said the most effective way to increase global security and peace was promoting human rights, because those “whose human dignity is violated with impunity become easy prey to the call to violence.”
The pope also warned against efforts to dilute the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by a young United Nations 60 years ago in the wake of the atrocities leading to and during World War II. He said its value was that it “enabled different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence of rights.”
He said the declaration shared a conviction common to the Golden Rule, formulated by St. Augustine, that human rights are rooted in a sense of justice — universal to all cultures and times — built on solidarity among members of society.
Pope Benedict highlighted what he called “the principle of the responsibility to protect” as the model for international relations. While countries have the primary responsibility for protecting their own populations from human-rights violations and humanitarian disasters, he said other states are obligated to intervene in some circumstances.
“If states are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments,” he said.
Such interventions “should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real the damage,” he said.
“When faced with new and insistent challenges, it is a mistake to fall back on a pragmatic approach, limited to determining ‘common ground,’ minimal in content and weak in its effect,” he said.
The pope also issued a strong defense of religious freedom, especially in regions where religious rights “clash with a prevailing secular ideology or with majority religious positions of an exclusive nature.”
“The full guarantee of religious liberty cannot be limited to the free exercise of worship, but has to give due consideration to the public dimension of religion, and hence to the possibility of believers playing their part in building the social order through educational, health care and charitable organizations,” the pope said.
Read the text of the pope's U.N. speech here»
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