The Holy See
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Wednesday, 27 April 2005


Mr President of the Executive Council,
Mr Director General,
Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

Thank you for offering me the floor. I would like personally and on behalf of the Holy See to express my gratitude for the condolences that UNESCO sent to me on the occasion of the death of His Holiness Pope John Paul II. Indeed, his departure gave rise to great emotion, not only among the faithful of the Catholic Church but also among people of all religions and all cultures who recognized him as a true witness of peace and a valiant champion of dialogue and human rights.

I would also like to thank you for the congratulations I received from all of you on the occasion of the election of the new Pope, His Holiness Benedict XVI, and especially for the vibrant tribute paid to him by the President of the Executive Council, H.E. Mr Hans-Heinrich Wrede.

The magisterium of Pope John Paul II lives on as a landmark in the life of the Church as well as in international life, and in this perspective I would like to offer you a few thoughts on his Discourses. In June 1980, during his first Journey to France, Pope John Paul II was eager to pay a visit to UNESCO. He gave a historic Address there, declaring in particular: "With all the means at your disposal, watch over this fundamental sovereignty that every nation possesses by virtue of its own culture. Cherish it like the apple of your eye for the future of the great human family" (Address to UNESCO, 2 June 1980, n. 15; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 23 June 1980, p. 11).

This is why my Delegation is renewing its total support for the felicitous initiative of a draft Convention on the protection of cultural content and art. After the Declaration on cultural diversity, it is necessary today to dispose of a more specific and binding juridical instrument, such as a Convention, not only to permit the different cultural contents and expressions of art to become factors of development also on the economic level and for all peoples, especially the least privileged, but also to prevent the management of this very special good, which cultural heritage is, from being treated as a purely economic entity.

To recognize, protect and promote the specificity of cultural content in its plurality that cannot be reduced, requires an institution whose central role is to protect and promote culture: this is the precise role of UNESCO.

The widely debated question of the dual nature - financial and cultural - of cultural goods and services has the merit of demonstrating that it is not merely money that circulates and is made in the financial sector but also and above all, meaning, values and identity. The principles of respect for cultural goods and reciprocal support, solidarity and cooperation, are the fundamental pillars of this Convention that aims, from a human point of view, to enrich all the cultures.

In the famous Discourse that I have just mentioned, John Paul II said that "the problems of culture, science and education do not arise, in the life of nations and in international relations, independently of the other problems of human existence, such as those of peace or hunger. The problems of culture are conditioned by the other dimensions of human existence, just as the latter, in their turn, condition them" (ibid., n. 3).

Hence, "no man, no country and no system in the world can remain indifferent to the "geography of hunger' and the gigantic threats that will ensue if the whole direction of economic policy and, in particular, the hierarchy of investments, do not change in an essential and radical way" (ibid., n. 4).

However, Pope John Paul II also reminded us that it is impossible to reduce the question of the pluralism of cultural content and expression to a problem of the management of goods and services, in other words, of the regulation of market flows: "All man's "having' is important for culture, is a factor creative of culture, only to the extent to which man, through his "having', can at the same time "be' more fully as a man, become more fully a man in all the dimensions of his existence, in everything that characterizes his humanity" (ibid., n. 7).

If "man, and only man, is the "protagonist', or "architect' of culture" (ibid.), it would be right, in the Convention, to insist more forcefully and effectively on the positive connection between cultural content and cultural identity. All the discussions that have taken place concerning the definitions that form the basis of this Convention could find a point of convergence by recognizing the fact that the question of the diversity of cultural expressions is fundamentally a matter of the identity of subjects, not of objects to be defined and listed: the human's prolific creativity is expressed in [art] works and production but at the same time transcends them.

If the fundamental stake is cultural identity, it is legitimate to speak of protection, since it is not only a question of managing or encouraging certain forms of production to the detriment of others, but of permitting people to develop as persons endowed with freedom; likewise, we succeed in feeling we are citizens of the world to the extent that we belong to communities that have accepted us and given us a frame of reference and a network of "meanings", a style and tangible values.

When the Church affirms and upholds the fundamental rights of the person and of communities of persons, she is at the same time affirming and upholding the right of each community to preserve and develop its own culture and defend itself from forced homologation.

Moreover, if the question of people's freedom is the fundamental issue, it would be right in the Convention to give greater weight to the indispensable role of civil society in the management of the protection and promotion of cultural diversity, especially considering that it is not States which create culture but the living forces of free associations among citizens.

In recognizing that the State has the last word in guaranteeing the implementation of the law and its arbitration, the role played by educational institutions such as universities must become a lead role for the promotion of cultural diversity. Their initiatives could benefit from the resources of intelligence, time and creativity that are often generously made available but rarely made the most of in long-term projects.

In the process of drafting the Convention, it will also be important to take the proposals of civil society and of the NGOs into account.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, before concluding, I would like to draw your attention to one last aspect.

A more exhaustive reflection on the question of cultural identity would show that among the aspects of cultural difference, one cannot ignore the issue of religion. We have already stressed this aspect on many occasions; religion cannot, of course, be reduced to a cultural phenomenon, but it is also evident that the vital relationship between culture and religion cannot be denied, whether from a viewpoint that could be described as genetic (at the roots of all cultures, in one way or another, is the search to comprehend the transcendent), or from a structural and anthropological viewpoint (the relationship with the sacred and/or with transcendence, even through a denial of the latter, is a fundamental element of culture as a representation of the world).

As other States have suggested, it will be necessary to mention the importance of religion, at least in the Preamble of the Convention, without in any case forgetting that this question also concerns the "objective" aspects of cultural diversity.

The norms of certain States specifically recognize "cultural goods with a religious interest", which not only the Catholic Church but also other religions consider testimonies of faith, vehicles of a patrimony of values and sensibilities that cannot be reduced to culture alone and are used for purposes of ritual or worship.

It should be noted that the Convention fails to take either this type of goods or their special character into account.

If, on the one hand, we easily recognize that this Document is not the most appropriate one for defining these complex issues, on the other, we also recognize in it a tendency to confirm a conception of religion as concerning solely the private dimension of life and with no bearing on the public domain.

Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, we therefore call for a more attentive consideration in the future of the place and aspect of religion. It is not a mere appendix to people's lives but one of their legitimate aspirations and part of the duty to recognize and to do justice to the dignity of every person and every human community.

Thank you for your attention.