Vatican to Commemorate Declaration of Human Rights

A report from the Vatican Information Service

VATICAN CITY, 13 NOV 2008 (VIS) – In the Holy See Press Office this morning, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, presented the programme of events planned to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The initiatives, organised by his dicastery, are due to be held in the Vatican on 10 December.

Cardinal Martino explained that the aim of the initiatives is, “on the one hand, to celebrate that famous United Nations document and, on the other, to highlight its perennial value, underlining once again its importance as an educational tool and a guide for building a more just and united world.

“The Church”, he added, “holds that human rights express the transcendent dignity of human beings, the only creatures to be loved by God for themselves, the end and never the means; and she believes that the 1948 Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man was a moment of fundamental importance in mankind’s development of a moral conscience that accords with human dignity”.

The cardinal reiterated the fact that “the Church has made her own contributions, both through reflections on human rights in the light of the Word of God and of human reason (such as the treatment of the subject by Blessed John XXIII in his ‘Pacem in Terris’), and through her commitment to announce and denounce which has made her such a tireless paladin of the dignity of mankind and human rights in the sixty years since the 1948 Declaration”.

He continued: “The latest powerful testimony to the value of the Universal Declaration was that of the Holy Father Benedict XVI on 18 April this year when he visited the Untied Nations and declared: … ‘The merit of the Universal Declaration is that it has enabled different cultures, juridical expressions and institutional models to converge around a fundamental nucleus of values, and hence of rights’.

“On this basis, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, together with the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household, will organise a celebration to take place in the Paul VI Hall on 10 December. The initiative will be divided into two phases. The first, at 4 p.m., will consist in a commemorative meeting dedicated to reflection and study, attended by heads of dicasteries of the Roman Curia and by members of the diplomatic corps accredited to the Holy See. Contributions on the value and importance of the Declaration will be forthcoming from Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone S.D.B.; Juan Somavia, director general of the World Labour Organisation, and Jacques Diouf, director general of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

At 6 p.m. that evening, Benedict XVI will attend a public concert by the Brandenburrgisches Staatsorchester of Frankfurt, led by the Spanish conductor, Inma Shara.

Shortly before the concert, the St. Matthew Foundation’s annual prizes in memory of Cardinal Van Thuan will be presented. Among this year’s winners is Cornelio Sommaruga, former president of the International Red Cross.

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