The Holy See
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Maastricht, Holland
Tuesday, 2 December 2003


Mr President,

I have the honour to represent the Holy See at the 11th Ministerial Conference of the OSCE and to extend to you and the other Delegation Heads the greetings and best wishes of His Holiness John Paul II for the meeting's success.

At the end of a year of intense consultations, we are about to adopt a "Strategy of the OSCE to Face the Threats to Stability and to the Security of the 21st Century". The perception and evaluation of such threats can vary at times; however, it is important to find a comprehensive and collaborative common response to these global phenomena, using the values and instruments available to this Organization. This will avoid the danger of one-sidedness and will help the OSCE to understand better the connection between current threats as well as to confront the causes more adequately.

The Holy See, for its part, does not tire of repeating that action to guarantee peace and stability must be accompanied by the commitment to promote spiritual, moral and religious values as well.

The Holy See favourably welcomed the adoption of the Resolution on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination in Porto in 2002. Following this decision, the OSCE organized two conferences this year:  on anti-Semitism and on racism, xenophobia and discrimination.

His Holiness John Paul II clearly expressed "the strongest condemnation of all anti-Semitism and racism, which is opposed to the principles of Christianity, and for which there exists no justification in the cultures to which we refer" (To Leaders of the Jewish Community in Strasbourg, 9 October 1988; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 21 November 1988, p. 4).

The Holy See, therefore, is pleased that this year a Resolution on Tolerance and Non-Discrimination will also be adopted. In this setting, there are various duties to be assumed in agreement with the other members of the international community. It is necessary to guarantee an appropriate formation and correct information:  the media, among other things, play a special role. Moreover, it is necessary to redouble efforts to educate people in the ways of coexistence and reciprocal trust, anchoring them firmly in respect for religion, history, culture and the essential value of every human person.

Catholic Church institutions are very active in the field of education, where she seeks to teach respect for others, dialogue and openness towards all people, aware that such a task involves strategic priorities for today's multiethnic and multicultural society.

For this reason the Holy See follows with interest the work of the Organization in the educational sector, and she asks that in lands where the Church has taken on the role of coordinating the work of the international community in that area, the OSCE will always strive to maintain an effective and constant dialogue with all competent bodies - and therefore also with the ecclesiastical and religious Authorities - so as to guarantee that the legislation and curriculum of studies respect the specific religious identity of the diverse ethnic groups and the right of parents to educate their children.

Respect for such identity and right, as well as the full exercise of religious freedom, contribute in a decisive manner to combating intolerance and ethnic and racist prejudice.

Concerning religious freedom, on 10 October 2003, receiving a large group of members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the OSCE, Pope John Paul II stressed that "while respecting a healthy sense of the State's secular nature, the positive role of believers in public life should be recognized".

Furthermore, "the respect of every expression of religious freedom is therefore seen to be a most effective means for guaranteeing security and stability within the family of Peoples and Nations in the 21st century" (ORE, 22 October 2003, p. 10).

Mr President,

The OSCE has prepared for the first time a Plan of Action on "Rom and Sinti". The intent to facilitate a major integration of Rom and Sinti into the society of Participating States with this document is of particular importance for my Delegation, offering to members of these communities an equal opportunity to develop the wealth of their culture and traditions.

Finally, I cannot pass over the theme of human slave trade which has occupied a special place in the Organization's activity. The Holy See is convinced that the Plan of Action and the new mechanism for combating this shameful trade in slaves will certainly promote, among other things, a closer and more intense cooperation between the Agencies involved in the countries of origin of passage and the final destination.

The Holy See, therefore, strongly hopes that the above-mentioned process can be adopted in Maastricht.

In conclusion, Mr President, I express to the Presidency of Holland the lively esteem of the Holy See for the work that it has done and I express my best wishes for the forthcoming Bulgarian Presidency.


L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English 2004 n.11 p.10