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   Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People

Extracts from speeches by the Holy Father and positions taken by the Holy See concerning Refugees and
Internally Displaced Persons

Overview of the period 
January 1, 2002 - January 31, 2003

(Part III: November 5, 2002 - January 13, 2003)



Tuesday, 5 November 2002

Mr Chairman, 

After reading the Report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, my Delegation once again voices its praise and appreciation for the work of the Agency. This Delegation also offers words of condolence for those members of the UNRWA staff killed or injured in carrying out their duties. 

My Delegation notes that previous speakers have clearly identified many of the critical issues festering in the region served by UNRWA. They have spoken about settlements, curfews, closures, assassinations, suicide bombers as well as the effects upon the Palestinian people regarding employment, education and access to medical services. 

Pontifical Mission for Palestine 

The Holy See understands precisely how the current situation has impacted the lives of so many with such adversity. The Pontifical Mission for Palestine and its numerous collaborators worldwide report daily on the trials of those people served. 

The work of the Pontifical Mission for Palestine relies heavily on its collaborators, in order to provide financial support for its work among the Palestinian people, especially those living in refugee camps. The annual budget of US$ 10,720,203.00 has been supported by the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (U.S.A), Mercy Corps International (U.S.A), Kinderhilfe Bethlehem (Switzerland), Fundación Social de la Cultura (Spain), Bischofliches Hilfswerk Misereor (Germany), the Archdiocese of Cologne (Germany) and the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem (Worldwide). These funds are used for the labour intensive programme, basically for the employment of Palestinians working on municipal projects; village restoration; pre-school through university educational programmes and the various health projects and clinics often forced to deal with the injuries sustained as a result of violence and armed conflict. 

Papal appeal for end of violence, negotiations between parties 

Pope John Paul II, in his Angelus message of Sunday, 11 August 2002, spoke of the futility of violence as a solution to the fundamental Israeli-Palestinian problem: 

"When will it be understood that the coexistence of the Israeli and Palestinian peoples cannot be brought about by arms? For it is neither attacks, nor walls that separate, nor even retaliation that will ever lead to a just solution of the continuing conflict.... From 1967 till today, unspeakable sufferings have followed one upon another in a frightening manner: the suffering of the Palestinians, driven out of their land and forced, in recent times, into a state of permanent siege, becoming as it were the object of a collective punishment; the suffering of the Israeli population, who live in the daily terror of being targets of anonymous assailants.... Faced with this humanitarian tragedy, which does not seem to show any signs of hope, no one can remain indifferent. That is why, once again, I appeal to the Israeli and Palestinian political leadership to set out anew on the path of sincere negotiation. I ask the international community to work with greater resolve in being present in the area, offering its mediation in order to create the conditions for a fruitful dialogue that will speed the process towards peace" (Angelus message, 11 August 2002: ORE,21 August 2002, p. 12). 

Mitchell Report 

Mr Chairman, 

My Delegation proposes that the international community must assist the Palestinians and the Israelis to realize that the fundamental injustice causing the continuous unending spiral of retaliations must come to an end. Also, the findings of the Mitchell Report, of 6 May 2001, clearly identified the occupation of Palestinian lands by Israel as the root cause of the sufferings which plague both Israelis and Palestinians. It is incumbent upon both parties assisted by the international community to set out anew on the path of sincere negotiation so that this issue is properly addressed and accords of resolution produced. The massive application of violence has failed and failed miserably. It has increased the sufferings of both Israelis and Palestinians. 

Voice of Yitzak Rabin 

My Delegation wishes to take this opportunity to recall that in another time in the region there was a voice for fundamental reconciliation and peace. Speaking on the occasion of the signing of the Israeli-Palestinian Declaration of Principles, the late Prime Minister of Israel, Yitzhak Rabin, stated:
"Let me say to you, the Palestinians: We are destined to live together, on the same soil in the same land. We the soldiers who have returned from battle stained with blood, we who have seen our relatives and friends killed before our eyes, we who have attended their funerals and cannot look into the eyes of their parents, we who have come from a land where parents bury their children, we who have fought against you, the Palestinians we say to you today in a loud and clear voice: Enough of blood and tears. Enough" (13 September 1993). 

Has the bullet which ended his life also ended the vision he saw of reconciliation and peace? 

Holy City of Jerusalem 

Mr Chairman, 

Beyond addressing the root issues which have for over two years led to an unending cycle of violence, it is the hope of my Delegation that any solution found for the multifaceted problems of the region will include the Holy City of Jerusalem. The Holy See renews its consistent call for internationally guaranteed provisions to ensure the freedom of religion and conscience of its inhabitants, in order to safeguard the special character of the City and of the sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Current levels of violence have caused pilgrims to stay away from the Holy Land thus imposing severe economic penalties on all the people of the region. 

The Holy See appeals for greater international solidarity and the political will to eliminate the root cause of the reprehensible violence affecting the people of the region especially the civilian population and children who should be exempt from such hostilities. 

Thank you, Mr Chairman.



7 November 2002

Mr. Chairman,

Once again, the Holy See welcomes the Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and adds its voice to those who commend the office of the High Commissioner for its fine work in promoting and protecting the rights and well being of the some of the world’s most vulnerable persons.

My Delegation is pleased to note that, in the words of the High Commissioner, "Slight reduction from 21.1 million in 2000 to 19.8 million at the end of 2001", of persons of concern to the High Commissioner. With all that the people of the world have witnessed in the past twelve months, any decrease in the number of persons separated from home and family is a welcome sign of the unbreakable spirit which binds all people into one family.

At the same time, my Delegation is distressed that the Report states that some people found borders that were closed to many or suffered violence, xenophobia and the denial of fundamental rights. Once again, the Holy See realizes that the world has gone through many changes in the past year. At the same time, however, it is those very changes and the situations that have risen that should focus on the reasons for the existence of the Office of the High Commissioner for Refugees.

In December 2000, the United Nations celebrated the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Statute of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. As it has done for more than these fifty years, since before the formal establishment of the Office of the High Commissioner, the Holy See continues to lend its support and take its place, within the world community to provide care and protection to those who have been forced from their homes, no matter what the reason.

The Holy See assures that currently, the Catholic Church, through a variety of agencies, most particularly the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People, The Pontifical Council Cor Unum, Caritas Internationalis and its national offices, Catholic Relief Services, and the Jesuit Refugee Service, operates centers throughout the world, serving the needs of many thousands of people.

During 2001, Church agencies in the United States alone aided 319,541 refugees and immigrants, who received help with settlement, family reunification, education, legal and employment services, and language classes.

All these agencies and institutions continue to‘put a human face’on the refugee and migrant, not dealing with quotas or numbers but reaching out to help people in need.

A discussion on the protection of refugees cannot be complete without also adding a word of support for all those governments and states that continue to struggle to meet the needs of incoming refugees and migrants.

Satisfying the basic needs of life can not be seen as a burden but as a necessity even as those same governments find it difficult to provide for their own citizens. The family of nations should commend and continue to aid in those efforts.

Finally, Mr. Chairman,

My Delegation realizes that the Report of the Secretary General deals with only those "persons of concern to the High Commissioner". However, I wish to add a few words about the other group of people who need special attention.

According to the statistics compiled by the United Nations, there are as many as fifty million internally displaced persons throughout the world.

Just as it continues to support the efforts of countries receiving refugees and migrants, the Holy See calls upon governments to recognize their responsibilities toward providing security and access to basic social services to all those displaced persons within their borders.

The recently concluded World Summit on Sustainable Development has taught a valuable lesson. The result of that meeting was more than the very important Political Declaration and outcome document. People came together and discussed problems and ways to find solutions. My Delegation hopes that the same spirit of changing words into actions will continue to help all people who have been separated from their homes or their land or their families to find a place to live that recognizes their human dignity and their right to security, peace and happiness.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.



11 November 2002

Dear Members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences,


 I am also thinking of the enormous benefits that science can bring to the peoples of the world through basic research and technological applications. By protecting its legitimate autonomy from economic and political pressures, by not giving in to the forces of consensus or to the quest for profit, by committing itself to selfless research aimed at truth and the common good, the scientific community can help the world’s peoples and serve them in ways no other structures can.

At the beginning of this new century, scientists need to ask themselves if there is not more that they can do in this regard. In an ever more globalized world, can they not do more to increase levels of instruction and improve health conditions, to study strategies for a more equitable distribution of resources, to facilitate the free circulation of information and the access of all to that knowledge that improves the quality of life and raises standards of living? Can they not make their voices heard more clearly and with greater authority in the cause of world peace? ...

In this way, science will help to unite minds and hearts, promoting dialogue not only between individual researchers in different parts of the world but also between nations and cultures, making a priceless contribution to peace and harmony among peoples.





14 November 2002

Mr President of the Italian Republic,
Honourable Presidents of the Chamber of Deputies and of the Senate,
Mr President of the Council of Ministers,
Honourable Deputies and Senators,


 8. The genuinely "human" nature of society is shown especially in the attention which it is able show towards its weakest members. If we consider Italy’s development in the almost sixty years since the devastation of the Second World War, we can only admire the immense progress made towards a society in which all are guaranteed acceptable living conditions. But it is likewise necessary to acknowledge the continuing grave crisis of unemployment affecting the young in particular, and the many forms of poverty, deprivation and marginalization, both old and new, involving numerous individuals and families, whether Italians or immigrants to this country. Great therefore is the need for a willing and comprehensive network of solidarity, in which the Church is entirely committed to making her own specific contribution.

Such solidarity, however, needs to be able to count above all on constant and close attention on the part of public Institutions.



17 November 2002 

Dear Brothers and Sisters, 

1. Today in Italy, the Day of Migrants is observed, an annual event that invites the ecclesial and civil community to reflect on this important and complex phenomenon. 

The Italian Bishops have chosen as the theme for this day, a sentence of the Apostle Paul: "Welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you" (Rom 15,7). In welcoming every man in Christ, God made himself an "emigrant" in the paths of time to take to all the Gospel of love and peace. In contemplating this mystery, how can one not be open to welcome and recognize that every human being is a son of the one heavenly Father and, therefore, is our brother? 

2. We live in a time of profound changes that affect persons, ethnic groups and peoples. Even today we can note serious inequalities, especially between the north and the south of this world. 

This makes the earth, becoming increasingly a "global village", be for some unfortunately a place of poverty and privations, while others are busy accumulating great wealth. In this situation, the "other" risks being frequently considered a competitor, especially if he is "different" due to language, nationality and culture. 

Because of this, it is important that the spirit of welcome be present everywhere, to be translated into the social behaviour of care, especially for the needy. Everyone is called to contribute to making a better world, starting in one's own circle of life and work. I very much hope that families, associations, ecclesial and civil communities will become ever more schools of hospitality, of civil fellowship and of fruitful dialogue. As for immigrants, they must know how to respect the laws of the state that has welcomed them and thus contribute to a better integration in the new social situation. 




Saturday, 30 November 2002

Mr Ambassador, 

2. ...

However, it is necessary with great diligence to build and make lasting peace in justice, solving the problems connected with the country's future. These include the issue of the refugees and exiles who are waiting to be able to return home and an economic recovery that will restore serenity and confidence to each of the peoples. 

Concrete programmes are needed that start with the person and respect for his dignity, that can offer him the possibility of working to gain a livelihood, that should foster dialogue and collaboration among the members of civil society with full respect for the identity of each one. 


It is true that one cannot erase from memory what happened in the past, but hearts can and must be freed from bearing grudges and planning revenge. The memory of [past] errors and injustices should be a strong lesson not to let either happen again, so as to avoid new and perhaps even greater tragedies. 

The Church of Bosnia and Herzegovina is already involved and makes her contribution to reconciliation and forgiveness by faithfully proclaiming the Gospel. She asks only to be able to carry out her mission, staying close to the poor and those on the fringes of society and giving a voice to those without a voice in society. 

4. ...

Although the war ended almost seven years ago, no one has yet found concrete solutions to the tragedy of the many refugees and exiles who desire to return to their homes. I think in particular of the people waiting to be able to return to the areas of Banja Luka and Bosanska Posavina. These peoples and the refugees and exiles in other areas, are being denied the right to live peacefully on their native soil. Many are all too often forced to seek their fortune elsewhere. 

These persons rightfully ask for guarantees of security and for the creation of acceptable political, social and economic conditions. They also ask for the return of their property, violently taken from them during the war. 

5. ...

peace "is appropriately called "the effect of justice'", and that this requires "a firm determination to respect the dignity of other human beings and other peoples"




First Sunday of Advent, 1 December 2002 


Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Filipino Catholic Centre in Rome!

2. With great affection I greet you and, through you, the many thousands of Filipino men and women living in Rome and in other cities throughout Italy. ...

My cordial greeting also goes to the priests, to the men and women religious and to the lay faithful who in various ways serve your large and lively community. ...

The Church's concern for the Filipino faithful can also be seen in 39 pastoral centres located throughout the City where you can foster your own noble Christian traditions and give them new life, thanks to the liturgical and apostolic services offered there. Continue on the path of faith and solidarity with one another to build the civilization of love.

3. Dear Brothers and Sisters, hold fast to the rich cultural and religious heritage that is an integral part of your identity. Many of you have had the chance to find employment here in Italy and have attained a standard of living that enables you to help your family members at home. For others, however - and I hope that they are few - your status as immigrants has brought you serious problems, including loneliness, the separation of families, the loss of the values handed down from the past and at times even the loss of your faith. 

I would like to renew to all of you, and in particular to the many women present here, the words of encouragement which we heard in today's Liturgy: Do not lose heart! We must not grow weak in faith, for the Lord is near. The fact that you are immigrants makes you all the more dear to Jesus who, as we recall during Advent, came on earth to save us. 

 ...I ask those who employ you to welcome you and love you as cherished brothers and sisters in Christ. All of us must work together to build the civilization of love...



Friday, 13 December 2002

Your Excellencies, 


2. Peace is one of the most precious goods for human persons, peoples and States. You who keep abreast of international events know that all human beings ardently desire it. Without peace there can be no true development of individuals, families, society or the economy itself. Peace is a duty for all. To will peace is not a sign of weakness but of strength. It is achieved by means of respect for international order and international law which must be priorities for all who are responsible for the welfare of nations. Similarly, it is important to consider the fundamental value of joint and multilateral action to resolve conflicts on the different continents. 

3. Forms of extreme poverty and injustice are the source of violence and contribute to maintaining and developing many local or regional conflicts. I think particularly of the countries in which famine takes place so regularly. The international community is called to do all it can for the gradual elimination of these scourges, mainly by providing the material and human means that will help the peoples who have the greatest need. Greater support for the organization of the local economies would certainly empower the indigenous peoples to gain greater control of their future. 

Today poverty poses an alarming threat to the world, endangering political, economic and social balances. In the spirit of the International Conference of Vienna on Human Rights in 1993, poverty undermines the dignity of persons and peoples. One must recognize the right of each person to what is necessary for life, and to benefit from a share of his nation's wealth. Through Your Excellencies, once again I desire to launch a pressing appeal to the international community so that it can reexamine without delay the twofold issue of the fair allocation of the planet's wealth and of a technological and scientific assistance to the poor countries, which is a duty incumbent on the rich countries. Furthering development involves the education in all areas of expertise of the local leaders who in the future will be responsible for the welfare of their people, so that they may benefit more directly from the raw materials and the wealth to be extracted from beneath and above the ground. 

It is in this perspective that the Catholic Church desires to continue her action, in the diplomatic world and by her presence in various countries of the world and her closeness to the people, working for the respect of persons and peoples and for the advancement of all, especially through integral education and the creation of social structures. ...



13 December 2002 

Your Excellency,


A society faithful to its Christian roots cannot but be a society intensely concerned to meet the needs of others in less fortunate circumstances. It is a society which feels a deep-seated responsibility in the face of the prospect of an ecological crisis or the problems of peace or the lack of guarantees for the fundamental human rights of people. ...

The exercise of solidarity within each society is the expression of a firm and persevering determination to promote the common good. In your own country such solidarity has a special place in the treatment given to the growing immigrant communities. Openness, respect and a sincere readiness for dialogue make it possible for immigrants, while they struggle to meet their own needs and those of their families, to make a specific and positive contribution to the country that receives them.

The Catholic Church in Norway, prompted by the belief that in the Church no one is a stranger, has found its experience of welcoming migrant peoples enriching and fruitful. Parish communities in many instances have become training grounds of hospitality and places where people can grow in knowledge and respect for one another as brothers and sisters in God’s family. ...



13 December 2002 

Your Excellency,


An important aspect of this mission of promoting peace is the task of fostering ever greater awareness of the prime value of solidarity. As the modern phenomenon of globalization makes ever clearer, human society — whether at the national, regional or international levels — is more and more dependent on the basic relationships that people cultivate with one another in ever widening circles. These relationships move from the family to intermediary social groups and on to civil society as a whole, embracing the entire national community of a given country. States in turn enter into relationships with one another, and networks of global interdependence are created, both regional and worldwide.

At the same time, this growing reality of human interaction and interdependence brings to light many inequalities existing between peoples and nations: there is a wide gap between rich and poor countries; within nations there is social imbalance between those living in wealth and those offended in their dignity by a lack of the basic necessities of life. And then there is the damage that is done to the human and natural environment by the irresponsible use of resources. We are confronted by the sad fact that in certain areas these negative factors have become so acute that some of the poorest countries appear to have reached a point of irreversible decline. For this reason, and compellingly so, the promotion of justice must be at the very heart of the international community’s efforts to address these problems.

Here it is a question of actively helping individuals and groups currently suffering exclusion and marginalization to become part of the process of economic and human development. For affluent regions of the world, this means that changes in lifestyles are called for, a change in the models of production and consumption; in developing areas, a change in the established structures of power-sharing, both political and economic, is often required. For the entire human family, it means meeting the many serious challenges posed by armed aggression and violent conflict, realities that involve not only peoples and states but also non-institutional organizations, such as paramilitary and terrorist groups. In the face of such threats, no one can fail to feel the urgent moral duty to work actively towards promoting peace and understanding among peoples, a task which depends in no small part on the establishment — in justice — of a genuine and effective solidarity. ...



13 December 2002 

Your Excellency,


In situations where tensions and conflict arise within a country or between nations, the proper response is never violence and bloodshed but dialogue, with a view to the peaceful resolution of the crisis. Authentic dialogue presupposes an honest search for what is true, good and just for every person, every group and every society; it is a sincere effort to identify what people have in common despite tension, opposition and conflict: this in fact is the only sure path leading to true peace and genuine progress. Furthermore, authentic dialogue helps the peoples and nations of the earth to recognize their mutual interdependence in the economic, political and cultural spheres. Precisely in our modern day, which is all too familiar with the latest technologies of death and destruction, there is an urgent need to build a consistent culture of peace that will help to forestall and counter the seemingly inevitable outbreaks of armed violence. This includes taking concrete steps to put an end to trafficking in arms.

Here, the duty of governments and of the international community remains essential, for it belongs to them to contribute to the establishment of peace through solid structures that, despite the uncertainties of politics, will guarantee freedom and security to all people in every circumstance.

The United Nations itself has been taking on a role of ever greater responsibility for maintaining or restoring peace in areas besieged by war and conflict. In your own country the U.N. has just extended the mandate of its peace-keeping mission: thus, the international community is itself a partner with your Government in its efforts to reintegrate ex-combatants, to facilitate the return of refugees and displaced persons, to ensure the full respect of human rights and the rule of law, with special protection afforded to women and children. ...



Friday, 13 December 2002

Mr Ambassador, 


2. ...the requirement of equitable justice is certainly the only foundation on which a state can build true peace and a strong democracy at the service of the integral development of all citizens without exception. One can only appreciate the efforts made in your country to promote justice: it is to be hoped that they bear fruit. This will contribute to reinforcing the national unity and to uprooting the culture of impunity that can only create hatred, exacerbating the inequalities between persons and the ethnic communities. It is a matter of allowing Rwandans to set out firmly and confidently on the path of effective reconciliation and sharing, while sincerely striving to seek and to express with courage the truth about the circumstances that led to the genocide. In a special way this implies giving up ethnocentrism, which gives rise to the domination of some over the others. It also means looking positively at the ground remaining to be covered to reach peace together. 

3. The path of national reconstruction and harmony among all the inhabitants, on which Rwanda has set out, is also a path of democratization. ...

The universal values such as respect for human life, a sense of the common good, the acceptance of the repatriated, support of families, are a precious heritage that constitutes a source of hope, not only for Rwanda, but also for the whole Region of the Great Lakes, which is called to find the strength of mind and necessary political courage to establish a lasting and supportive development. ...




1 January 2003 



3...John XXIII identified the essential conditions for peace in four precise requirements of the human spirit: truth, justice, love and freedom (cf. ibid., I: l.c., 265-266). Truth will build peace if every individual sincerely acknowledges not only his rights, but also his own duties towards others. Justice will build peace if in practice everyone respects the rights of others and actually fulfils his duties towards them. Love will build peace if people feel the needs of others as their own and share what they have with others, especially the values of mind and spirit which they possess. Freedom will build peace and make it thrive if, in the choice of the means to that end, people act according to reason and assume responsibility for their own actions. ...

5...Not only is it clear that Pope John XXIII's vision of an effective international public authority at the service of human rights, freedom and peace has not yet been entirely achieved, but there is still in fact much hesitation in the international community about the obligation to respect and implement human rights. This duty touches all fundamental rights, excluding that arbitrary picking and choosing which can lead to rationalizing forms of discrimination and injustice. Likewise, we are witnessing the emergence of an alarming gap between a series of new “rights” being promoted in advanced societies – the result of new prosperity and new technologies – and other more basic human rights still not being met, especially in situations of underdevelopment. I am thinking here for example about the right to food and drinkable water, to housing and security, to self-determination and independence – which are still far from being guaranteed and realized. Peace demands that this tension be speedily reduced and in time eliminated. ...

6....the question of peace cannot be separated from the question of human dignity and human rights. That is one of the enduring truths taught by Pacem in Terris, which we would do well to remember and reflect upon on this fortieth anniversary.

Is this not the time for all to work together for a new constitutional organization of the human family, truly capable of ensuring peace and harmony between peoples, as well as their integral development? 

... it means continuing and deepening processes already in place to meet the almost universal demand for participatory ways of exercising political authority, even international political authority, and for transparency and accountability at every level of public life. ...

8. There is an unbreakable bond between the work of peace and respect for truth. Honesty in the supply of information, equity in legal systems, openness in democratic procedures give citizens a sense of security, a readiness to settle controversies by peaceful means, and a desire for genuine and constructive dialogue, all of which constitute the true premises of a lasting peace. Political summits on the regional and international levels serve the cause of peace only if joint commitments are then honoured by each party. ...

Pacta sunt servanda, says the ancient maxim. If at all times commitments ought to be kept, promises made to the poor should be considered particularly binding. Especially frustrating for them is any breach of faith regarding promises which they see as vital to their well-being. In this respect, the failure to keep commitments in the sphere of aid to developing nations is a serious moral question and further highlights the injustice of the imbalances existing in the world. The suffering caused by poverty is compounded by the loss of trust. The end result is hopelessness. The existence of trust in international relations is a social capital of fundamental value.

 9. In the end, peace is not essentially about structures but about people. ...

Gestures of peacespring from the lives of people who foster peace first of all in their own hearts. They are the work of the heart and of reason in those who are peacemakers (cf. Mt 5:9). Gestures of peace are possible when people appreciate fully the community dimension of their lives, so that they grasp the meaning and consequences of events in their own communities and in the world. Gestures of peace create a tradition and a culture of peace. ....



Wednesday, 1 January 2003 


 I wished to refer to this significant event in theMessage for today's World Day of Peace. So today I ask each person to make his/her contribution to foster and bring about peace, through generous choices of reciprocal understanding, reconciliation, forgiveness and concrete attention to those in need. Concrete "gestures of peace" are necessary in families, in the work place, in communities, in civil life as a whole, in national and international public gatherings. Above all, we must never stop praying for peace

How can we not express once more the wish that world leaders do everything in their power to find peaceful solutions to the many tensions present in the world, especially in the Middle East, avoiding further suffering for those peoples who have been so sorely tried? May human solidarity and law prevail! ...



Monday, 13 January 2003

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,


 2. I have been personally struck by the feeling of fear which often dwells in the hearts of our contemporaries. An insidious terrorism capable of striking at any time and anywhere; the unresolved problem of the Middle East, with the Holy Land and Iraq; the turmoil disrupting South America, particularly Argentina, Colombia and Venzuela; the conflicts preventing numerous African countries from focusing on their development; the diseases spreading contagion and death; the grave problem of famine, especially in Africa; the irresponsible behaviour contributing to the depletion of the planet’s resources: all these are so many plagues threatening the suvival of humanity, the peace of individuals and the security of societies.

3. Yet everything can change. It depends on each of us. Everyone can develop within himself his potential for faith, for honesty, for respect of others and for commitment to the service of others.

It also depends, quite obviously, on political leaders, who are called to serve the common good. ...

First, a "YES TO LIFE"! Respect life itself and individual lives: everything starts here, for the most fundamental of human rights is certainly the right to life. Abortion, euthanasia, human cloning, for example, risk reducing the human person to a mere object: life and death to order, as it were! When all moral criteria are removed, scientific research involving the sources of life becomes a denial of the being and the dignity of the person. War itself is an attack on human life since it brings in its wake suffering and death. The battle for peace is always a battle for life!

Next, RESPECT FOR LAW. Life within society–particularly international life–presupposes common and inviolable principles whose goal is to guarantee the security and the freedom of individual citizens and of nations. These rules of conduct are the foundation of national and international stability. Today political leaders have at hand highly relevant texts and institutions. It is enough simply to put them into practice. The world would be totally different if people began to apply in a straightforward manner the agreements already signed!

Finally, the DUTY OF SOLIDARITY. In a world with a superabundance of information, but which paradoxically finds it so difficult to communicate and where living conditions are scandalously unequal, it is important to spare no effort to ensure that everyone feels responsible for the growth and happiness of all. Our future is at stake. An unemployed young person, a handicapped person who is marginalized, elderly people who are uncared for, countries which are captives of hunger and poverty: these situations all too often make people despair and fall prey to the temptation either of closing in on themselves or of resorting to violence.

4. This is why choices need to be made so that humanity can still have a future. Therefore, the peoples of the earth and their leaders must sometimes have the courage to say "No".

"NO TO DEATH"! That is to say, no to all that attacks the incomparable dignity of every human being, beginning with that of unborn children. If life is truly a treasure, we need to be able to preserve it and to make it bear fruit without distorting it. "No" to all that weakens the family, the basic cell of society. "No" to all that destroys in children the sense of striving, their respect for themselves and others, the sense of service.

"NO TO SELFISHNESS"! In other words, to all that impels man to protect himself inside the cocoon of a privileged social class or a cultural comfort which excludes others. The life-style of the prosperous, their patterns of consumption, must be reviewed in the light of their repercussions on other countries. 

... Selfishness is also the indifference of prosperous nations towards nations left out in the cold. All peoples are entitled to receive a fair share of the goods of this world and of the know-how of the more advanced countries. ... 

"NO TO WAR"! War is not always inevitable. It is always a defeat for humanity. International law, honest dialogue, solidarity between States, the noble exercise of diplomacy: these are methods worthy of individuals and nations in resolving their differences. I say this as I think of those who still place their trust in nuclear weapons and of the all-too-numerous conflicts which continue to hold hostage our brothers and sisters in humanity. ...

War is never just another means that one can choose to employ for settling differences between nations. As the Charter of the United Nations Organization and international law itself remind us, war cannot be decided upon, even when it is a matter of ensuring the common good, except as the very last option and in accordance with very strict conditions, without ignoring the consequences for the civilian population both during and after the military operations.

5. It is therefore possible to change the course of events, once good will, trust in others, fidelity to commitments and cooperation between responsible partners are allowed to prevail. ...

 6. Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, it is vital to note that the independence of States can no longer be understood apart from the concept of interdependence. All States are interconnected both for better and for worse. For this reason, and rightly so, we must be able to distinguish good from evil and call them by their proper names. As history has taught us time and time again, it is when doubt or confusion about what is right and wrong prevails that the greatest evils are to be feared.

If we are to avoid descending into chaos, it seems to me that two conditions must be met. First, we must rediscover within States and between States the paramount value of the natural law, which was the source of inspiration for the rights of nations and for the first formulations of international law. ...

Second, we need the persevering work of Statesmen who are honest and selfless. In effect, the indispensable professional competence of political leaders can find no legitimation unless it is connected to strong moral convictions. ...