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H.E. Mrs María Soledad Alvear Valenzuela,
Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Chile,

On the occasion of the 33rd session of the General Assembly of the Organization of American States (OAS), His Holiness Pope John Paul II has charged me to convey a cordial greeting to you, Your Excellency, to the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the American States and of the Caribbean, to the General Secretary of the OAS, Dr César Gaviria, and to the representatives of the observer countries.

In reading the many important topics on the Agenda of the Assembly, the Holy Father John Paul II was pleased to note the wide range of institutional problems which concern the organization as well as the many different forms of activity that arise from dealing with them.

In the past year, as usual the OAS has carried out an intense diplomatic activity, both in the area of the consolidation of democracy and in that of conflict solution. For this reason, the Supreme Pontiff wishes to express the special gratitude of the Holy See.

For my part, I would like to emphasize the consistence of these commitments with the goals of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, approved by the 31st General Assembly.

Article 1 of this Charter establishes that "the peoples of America have a right to democracy, and their governments are under the obligation to promote it and defend it".

The members of the OAS, however, are well aware - as they state in the Preamble of the Charter - that the promotion and consolidation of democracy means the elimination of poverty and, at the same time, all its causes and consequences: illiteracy, the insecurity of citizens, crime, terrorism, corruption, and weapons and drug trafficking. They also involve the solution of many other social problems such as discrimination, racism, intolerance and the lack of respect for human rights. Rightly, this General Assembly will reflect once again on these topics.

In this regard, the work of the OAS therefore makes a valuable contribution to eradicating those causes which hinder the effective functioning of democracy wherever it is formally established.

"Democracy", continues article 1 of the Democratic Charter cited above - "is essential for the social, political and economic development of the peoples of the Americas". It could also be said that the contrary is true, that is, without social, political and economic development, the very instruments that serve to guarantee the smooth functioning of the democratic system - such as the right to vote, the party system, electoral propaganda, etc., can easily become objects of manipulation and of the patronage system.

Last month, Pope John Paul II said to the young people in Spain: "Ideas are not imposed but proposed!" (Address to Youth at Cuatro Vientos Air Base, Madrid, 3 May, n. 3; ORE, 7 May 2003, p. 8). For the same reason, in building a democratic society it is essential to have recourse to dialogue and not to give in to discouragement in the arduous task of patiently weaving the fabric of reconciliation and pacification.

Dialogue, in which the power of democracy lies, must be the creed of politicians. Through dialogue, the riches of the few are transformed into the patrimony of all, and errors can be corrected before it is too late.

Dialogue lays the foundations of a society that is better and truly democratic.

Here, the Holy Father's thought turns to the nucleus of society: the family, in which, rightly, dialogue between husband and wife, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters is a guarantee and a sign of health and life. In turn, the more flourishing the family, the more society will flourish.

Twenty years have passed since the Holy See published the Charter of the Rights of the Family, addressed to all the persons, institutions and authorities involved in the mission of the family in the contemporary world. The Charter asked that the utmost be done to guarantee the protection of the rights of the family and reinforcement of the family institution for the good of the whole human race, today and in the future. I feel it is timely today to recall it and to bring it to everyone's attention again.

Twenty years have also passed since the last Resolution of the General Assembly of the OAS on the theme of the family during the Inter-American Year of the Family (AG/RES. 678 [XIII-0/83], of 18 November 1983).

The OAS has always defended the family as the basic cell of society, and continues to believe in the importance of the family institution, despite the difficulties it is coming up against. Please permit me, therefore, to express my appreciation of the initiative of Costa Rica, which this year has proposed a new Resolution on the family to bring up to date and complete that of 20 years ago. In Article 1 of the new project we read that "Every human being and especially every child, boy and girl, has the right to a family and to the stability of the family institution". Concern for the stability of the family institution is therefore a duty of the State, which it must also carry out by means of legislation favourable to the family and which does not penalize it. The Holy See will never give up repeating that the family cannot be equated with other types of unions that do not possess the sacred aim and exalted duty of continuing the human species and educating children, offering them warmth, protection and the material and spiritual opportunities they need when growing up, and which, moreover, they are entitled to.

So it only remains for me to express to all the participants in this General Assembly my best wishes for fruitful and serene work; and I am honoured to renew to you, Madam Minister for Foreign Affairs, my high esteem and most respectful regard.

Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State of His Holiness

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.26 pp. 5, 8.