Pope Francis on Human Rights "I am thinking, among other things, of the unborn children who are denied the right to come into the world..." FULL TEXT

ROME, 10-11 DECEMBER 2018

Mr. Cardinal,
venerable Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear brothers and sisters,

I am pleased to send my cordial greeting to all of you, representatives of States to the Holy See, of the institutions of the United Nations, of the Council of Europe, of the Episcopal Commissions of Justice and Peace and of those for social pastoral care, of the academic world. and civil society organizations, convened in Rome for the International Conference on the theme "Human rights in the contemporary world: conquests, omissions, denials", promoted by the Department for the Integral Human Development Service and the Pontifical Gregorian University, on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the Vienna Declaration and Program of Action.

Through these two documents, the family of Nations wanted to recognize the equal dignity of every human person, [1] from which derive fundamental rights and freedoms which, as rooted in the nature of the human person - an inseparable unit of body and soul - are universal, indivisible, interdependent and interconnected. [2] At the same time, in the Declaration of 1948 it is recognized that "every individual has duties towards the community, in which alone the free and full development of his personality is possible". [3]

In the year in which significant anniversaries of these international legal instruments are celebrated, an in-depth reflection on the foundation and respect for human rights in the contemporary world seems opportune, a reflection that I hope will be a harbinger of a renewed commitment to the defense of human dignity , with special attention to the most vulnerable members of the community.

Indeed, by observing our contemporary societies carefully, we find numerous contradictions that lead us to wonder whether the equal dignity of all human beings, solemnly proclaimed 70 years ago, is truly recognized, respected, protected and promoted in all circumstances. Numerous forms of injustice persist in the world today, nurtured by reductive anthropological visions and by an economic model based on profit, which does not hesitate to exploit, to discard and even to kill man. [4] While one part of humanity lives in opulence, another part sees its own dignity that is disowned, despised or trampled and its fundamental rights ignored or violated.

I am thinking, among other things, of the unborn children who are denied the right to come into the world; to those who do not have access to the indispensable means for a dignified life; [5] to those who are excluded from adequate education; to those who are unjustly deprived of work or forced to work as a slave; to those who are detained in inhuman conditions, who are subjected to torture or who are denied the opportunity to redeem themselves, [6] to the victims of enforced disappearances and their families.

My thoughts also go to all those who live in a climate dominated by suspicion and contempt, which are the subject of acts of intolerance, discrimination and violence because of their racial, ethnic, national or religious affiliation. [7]

Finally, I can not remember how many people suffer multiple violations of their fundamental rights in the tragic context of armed conflicts, while unscrupulous merchants of death [8] are enriched at the price of their brothers and sisters' blood.

In the face of these serious phenomena, we are all called into question. In fact, when fundamental rights are violated, or when they are favored by some to the detriment of others, or when they are guaranteed only to certain groups, then serious injustices occur, which in turn fuel conflicts with heavy consequences both within of the individual nations both in the relations between them.

Each is therefore called to contribute with courage and determination, in the specificity of their role, to respect the fundamental rights of every person, especially those "invisible": of many who are hungry and thirsty, who are naked, sick, foreign or detained (cf. Mt 25: 35-36), who live on the margins of society or are discarded.

This need for justice and solidarity has a special significance for us Christians, because the Gospel itself invites us to turn our gaze to the least of our brothers and sisters, to move to compassion (cf. Mt 14: 14) and to concretely commit ourselves to alleviate their suffering.

I wish, on this occasion, to address a heartfelt appeal to those with institutional responsibilities, asking them to place human rights at the center of all policies, including those of development cooperation, even when this means going against the current.
With the hope that these days of reflection may awaken consciences and inspire initiatives aimed at protecting and promoting human dignity, I entrust each of you, your families and your peoples to the intercession of Mary Most Holy, Queen of Peace, and I invoke all the abundance of divine blessings.

From the Vatican, 10 December 2018


[1] See the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, Preamble and Article 1.

[2] See the Vienna Declaration, 25 June 1993, n. 5.

[3] Universal Declaration of Human Rights, art. 29.1.

[4] See Esort. ap. Evangelii gaudium, 53.

[5] See John XXIII, Lett. Enc. Pacem in terris, 11 April 1963, 6.

[6] Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 2267.

[7] See Discourse to the participants in the World Conference on the theme "Xenophobia, racism and populist nationalism, in the context of world migration", 20 September 2018.

[8] Cf. General Audience, Piazza San Pietro, 11 June 2014.