Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Holy See on Human Rights and Freedoms

Holy See on Human Rights and Freedoms

"Progress in Dialogue Is a Positive Development"


NEW YORK, OCT. 31, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a statement by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, delivered Monday to the 62nd U.N. General Assembly, on the topic of the promotion and protection of human rights.
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Mr Chairman,

At the outset, I wish to thank the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief for her report on the elimination of all forms of religious intolerance.

My delegation notes with interest the two substantive issues which have been raised within the context of the Special Rapporteur’s activities: first, the particular situation of refugees, asylum seekers and internally displaced persons, and second, the issues relating to blasphemy laws, education, and equality legislation.

We share the Special Rapporteur’s concern for the particularly vulnerable situation in which refugees, asylum seekers and IDPs, as well as women and religious minorities, find themselves in the exercise of their right to freedom of religion or belief. In this vein, my delegation underlines that the right to freedom of religion or belief applies to all human beings everywhere. International refugee law clearly affords refugees specific rights in their country of refuge in the exercise of their freedom of religion or belief.

Blasphemy laws existing in some countries or regions have caused much suffering especially among religious minorities, either by the punishments inflicted which include death, or by the indirect consequences of destruction of places of worship or summary justice. In places where such laws are still in force, my delegation urges the public authorities concerned to safeguard those accused of blasphemy and to grant full respect of all their human rights. Religious minorities are fully entitled to enjoy the right to religious freedom, equal treatment before the law and the same civil rights as the general population and members of the majority religion.

My delegation is aware of the laudable initiatives to foster debate on the delicate balance between freedom of speech and expression and respect for religion and religious symbols. Finding a common ground would greatly boost mutual understanding. But while we are still engaged in an honest search and dialogue, everyone must exercise responsibility and respect. My delegation remains convinced that to encourage peace and understanding between peoples, it is necessary that religions and their symbols be respected and that believers not be the object of provocations that vilify their religious convictions. Further, respect for religion does not exclude dialogue and debate among religions and with those who do not adhere to any particular religion, aimed at deepening the search for a common and solid ground. Moreover, intolerance and violence as a response to offences can never be justified, for this type of response is incompatible with the authentic spirit of religion and the effective respect for human dignity.

Mr Chairman,

My delegation continues to be seriously concerned that freedom of religion does not exist for many in different parts of the world. That the Special Rapporteur had to send one communication per week on this matter is indicative that there is still much more to do. Forced conversions, executions, desecration of places of worship, expulsion of religious minorities from their communities and other forms of religious persecution mentioned in the Special Rapporteur’s report are violations of the right to religious freedom as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and allied international instruments, such as The Declaration on the Elimination of All Forms of Intolerance and of Discrimination Based on Religion and Belief. These legal instruments provide that religious freedom includes the right to believe, to worship, to propose one’s faith to others, to accept a faith in total freedom, to associate freely with others in expressing religious convictions, as well as the right to change one’s religion.

Progress in the dialogue among world’s religions is a positive development. It becomes an occasion to exhort one another to a deeper faith, to peaceful coexistence and mutual enrichment, especially when dialogue is practiced as both witnessing to one’s faith and respecting the religious convictions of others. This progress in dialogue among religions has been accompanied by increased interest on the part of civil society, multilateral and national institutions. The Holy See hopes such interest will contribute to a greater respect by all for religious freedom everywhere.

Thank you, Mr Chairman.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Zenit: Holy See Statement on the Rule of Law

Holy See Statement on the Rule of Law

"Guarantees Respect for Even the Smallest of Nations"


NEW YORK, OCT. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Here is a statement by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, delivered Friday to the 62nd U.N. General Assembly, on the topic of the rule of law at the national and international levels.

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Mr. Chairman,

The mutually reinforcing values of peace, development and human rights are both the guiding principles and the goals of this organization. Their nexus and effectiveness is guaranteed by the proper implementation of the rule of law. It is the rule of law that creates the mechanisms to promote justice and peace, ensures predictability and security to allow for the foundation of a stable economy, and protects the dignity of every person regardless of one’s social, economic, or political status.

In an increasingly globalized society, where people from different cultures meet more frequently, migration occurs on a global scale and international trade propels rapid global development, regulating the relations between and among states is of utmost importance to ensure peaceful coexistence.

At the international level, the rule of law guarantees respect for even the smallest of nations. It safeguards the ability of all states to voice their legitimate concerns as equals in a forum of equals. Its rule restrains powerful nations from lording it over the weaker ones. These principles are very relevant to the ongoing reform of the Security Council and the revitalization of the General Assembly.

The role of the United Nations in the creation and implementation of international treaties is vital. By ensuring that the principles of free consent, good faith and "pacta sunt servanda" are respected, this organization guarantees that relations between states are regulated by applicable international treaties and governed by reason, justice and fair negotiations, rather than by fear, force or manipulation.

In enforcing these treaties, the United Nations must be a neutral arbitrator and must respect the contracting intent and desire of the parties. A treaty body system that becomes opaque and unaccountable to states parties runs the risk of undermining the basic tenants of the rule of law and diminishes the credibility and legitimacy of the United Nations as a promoter and guarantor of international law.

Surely states have a primary duty to ensure that treaties are respected. Selective enforcement and selective observance of treaties are antithetical to the rule of law. It would be preposterous to claim observance of the rule of law at a national level if international treaties and international law are not observed.

Moreover, the benefits and value of faithful treaty implementation go beyond the rule of law. Respect for treaties is also an excellent confidence-building measure, as it promotes trust among parties. This is particularly true in the area of disarmament, in which the fear of treaty noncompliance on the part of even just one state party paralyzes the disarmament and nonproliferation agenda. In fact, it is easier to make others comply with their commitments if one complies with one’s own.

However, not all states have the technical capacity to cope with all their international obligations. There is a growing gap between the development of international law and the capacity of individual states to incorporate it into national legislation and implement it. Thus technical assistance to these countries is of utmost importance if observance of international law and treaties is to be had. To this end, we note with interest the establishment of the Rule of Law Coordination and Resource Group and we look forward to following its work in promoting the rule of law.

Mr. Chairman,

The struggle against terrorism is necessary, but at the same time it must be established through the drafting, adoption and effective enforcement of juridical instruments designed to tackle this violent menace with right reason. The rule of law at times is difficult to apply to terrorists who have little or no respect for it. However, states must not engage in measures antithetical to the very principles that give them legitimacy through the rule of law.

The last few years have seen a greater focus on the rule of law at all levels. Though this focus has not always been accompanied by action, some progress has been achieved, particularly in the area of international criminal justice. Individuals and peoples whose rights have been violated, such as in cases of crimes against humanity, are given access to a justice system that serves the truth and banishes fear, revenge, impunity and inequality before the law.

In the same vein, further progress has also been made in the World Summit Outcome Document by which, among others, all member states affirmed the collective international responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity, and their willingness to take timely and decisive collective action for this purpose, through the Security Council, when peaceful means prove inadequate and national authorities are manifestly failing to do it.

My delegation believes there is need to pursue the debate and juridical codification along this very line, wherein sovereignty is not understood as an absolute right and used as a shield against outside involvement, but as a responsibility not merely to protect citizens, but also to promote their welfare. Through the creation of legal norms, arbitration of legal disputes and the establishment of safeguards, especially when states fail in their responsibility to protect, the United Nations is called to be the propulsive forum for the rule of law in all corners of the globe.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[Text adapted]

Zenit: A Turn to the Fathers: Interview With Father Robert Dodaro

A Turn to the Fathers: Interview With Father Robert Dodaro

ROME, OCT. 28, 2007 (Zenit.org).- There is a need to bridge a gap between the Fathers of the Church and the modern developments in theology, says a patristics scholar.

Father Robert Dodaro, director of the Augustinian Patristic Institute at the Pontifical Lateran University, sees cause for optimism in this field, as he detects a trend toward more scholarly attention on the Church Fathers.

In this interview with ZENIT, Father Dodaro says that the study of the Fathers is the way to discover the answers to the problems the Church faces today.

Q: What are the difficulties limiting the number of students at the Augustinian Institute?

Father Dodaro: The greatest problem is the insufficient knowledge of Greek and Latin, and the lack of familiarity with classical studies. To prepare the students to take on the texts of the Fathers in their original languages, we began a prerequisite course of intensive Latin and Greek three years ago.

This year there are also supplementary classes on ancient Roman history, classical literature and ancient philosophy. As you can imagine, students do not study these subjects adequately in institutes and universities. Thus, the low levels in classical studies are for us the greatest challenge.

Q: What do you think about the relationship between patristic and modern theology?

Father Dodaro: During Vatican II it was decided that the updating of theology and Church praxis demanded a turning toward the wise patrimony of the Fathers of the Church. For this reason, the Servant of God Pope Paul VI wanted an institute of patristic studies in Rome. But today's theology seems to have set out on another path distinct from the ever-more-distant gate of tradition and, therefore, while the scholars of the Church Fathers investigate the historical context of the theology of the Fathers, today's theology withdraws from its origins. The Church today needs to confront the question of the relationship between patristic and dogmatic theology.

Q: Perhaps the Fathers existed too long ago?

Father Dodaro: No, the Fathers are very current. Theirs is a beautiful spirituality, and a liturgical and theological fashion. The general public is fascinated with it, and sales of the patristics -- even with translated texts -- are high. There is a living interest. The problem is that the theologians are unconvinced about the Fathers' teachings.

Q: You confirm that, among readers, there is an interest in the Church's origins and especially in the patristic era, although many of these works are academic and little known. The challenge is, perhaps, maintaining a high academic level while making the content of the Fathers accessible?

Father Dodaro: This is another of the challenges to which we are trying to respond. The question is how we can offer the treasure of Patristic theology and spirituality to Catholics. From this point of view, I feel proud when I see many of our graduates dedicated to translating, even after earning licentiates and doctorates.

These students and alumni work with publishing houses well-known for these types of works. I'm also surprised at the blooming of patristic studies in Italy. Today, Italy is on the forefront in researching, studying and disseminating the patristic authors not only because we find in Rome the Patristic Institute, but also because there is widespread interest among the state universities, where we have friends and collaborators.

For example, Italy's Città Nuova publishes a collection of patristic books, something that doesn't exist in all Western countries, although the trend is spreading throughout the world. Some alumni are dedicated to translating patristic texts even into Korean. I think the spread of these works can help local Churches respond to pastoral demands.

Therefore, we need texts translated into the many languages so people can study and deepen their knowledge of the Fathers. Then, courses are needed in the various spirituality and theology institutes. Bishops should challenge seminarians and young priests to study the Fathers of the Church.

Q: If you had to persuade youth to study the Fathers, what argument would you use?

Father Dodaro: I would speak about St. Augustine. But apart from that example, I would say: Take the 10 greatest and most difficult problems in today's Church, choose whichever ones you want, and then try to compare them to those the Church Fathers develop. In the classic patristics, you will find the roots and responses to whatever controversy the Church must confront today. This is the importance of the Church Fathers.