The Holy See
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Monday 10 October 2005


Mr President of the General Conference,
Mr Director General,
Your Excellencies,

In his recent Message on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Visit to UNESCO of his Predecessor, John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI gave the assurance that the Catholic Church would continue to take part in the reflections and engagements of UNESCO, "mobilizing her own forces which are first and foremost spiritual, to contribute to the good of human beings in all the dimensions of their being" (Message to Cardinal J. Tauran, 24 May 2005; L'Osservatore Romano English edition [ORE], 15 June, p. 5).

Thus, his appeal was "to mobilize the energies of intelligence so that the human person's right to education and culture may be recognized everywhere, particularly in the poorest countries" (ibid.).

Pope Benedict XVI's words eloquently express how necessary it is, if the work of this Organization is to be successful, to employ all our resources so that human dignity may be lived, promoted and respected. This is an immense and long-term undertaking that must deal with all kinds of new situations that we will need to understand, and practical problems we will need to solve.

Before drawing attention to a few points, Mr President, may I warmly thank the Director General for his latest report on the Organization's activity and express my appreciation for the attention paid to the subject of poverty treated as a transversal theme and the importance placed on the education of girls, which will make an important contribution to social development in certain regions of the world.

My Delegation would first like to recall the issue of bioethics that obliges us to know what a moral requirement is: in this case, respect for the human being and his or her intrinsic dignity.
It is impossible to deny that since their development, biology and medicine have made an enormous contribution to improving the standard of human life. Today, however, we are facing a new situation in which persons can or will jeopardize the future of the whole race, tempted as they are to treat the human being simply as laboratory material.

On the one hand, men and women say they want to be cured and lead a life worthy of their humanity until they die; but on the other, as we know well, the lack of doctors, medical structures and medicines deprives the vast majority of the world population of these rights.

In addition, in the face of these new challenges, the human being must be and remain human, living a "human" life and dying a "human" death.

It clearly appears, therefore, that the biological aspect is only one of the dimensions of our being and that to reduce humans to this dimension would be an act of mutilation. If there must be a "bioethic", it is primarily for ethical reasons.

A second practical problem concerns the expression of freedom and justice. Freedom without justice, as we know, means no more than giving full reign to private interests. And justice without freedom is merely a formal justice, that of the totalitarian regimes and dictatorships of all kinds.

Consequently, we must encourage freedom and justice together. In fact, a person deprived of freedom and a person deprived of justice are as mutilated as a person who is reduced to the biological reality of his or her body. Here again, an entire dimension of being, which can be described as spiritual, is denied. Deprived of freedom and justice, human beings are no longer truly human; they are alienated.

A third, very concrete, problem that my Delegation wishes to mention is that of truth. Can human beings live humanly if they cannot tell the truth?

Recent philosophy has sometimes proven to be minimalist with regard to this subject, asserting that the concept of consensus could replace or is equivalent to that of truth. A certain pragmatism held that the true opinion was the one that would prevail or was quite simply the one that could be integrated in a system recognized as effective.

Even if we note that the argument has changed and that more ambitious concepts of truth are back in fashion, we ourselves must expect more.

We must state that effective freedom and justice do not exist unless they are founded on truth in the mutual relations of human beings, through reciprocal trust. We can seek and know the truth, and the capacity for this is part of our most deeply human quality because it utilizes our reason and will and enables us to live in accordance with what our conscience teaches us.

Lastly, Mr President, may I recall one final problem that has been frequently mentioned at this assembly: education.

Since it is part of culture which must always be open to the universal, education based on the integral development of the being and on the central character of the person must aspire to forming the human being in all the dimensions of his being: somatic, psychological, moral, cultural, political and religious.

True education is not solely concerned with training citizens. Nor does it aim only to form cultured people. Education must aim ever higher and form people who are free and responsible, especially with regard to emotional and social behaviour.

"Education consists in fact in enabling man to become more man, to "be' more and not just to "have' more and consequently, through everything he "has', everything he "possesses', to "be' man more fully", as Pope John Paul II reminded UNESCO (Discourse, 2 June 1980, n. 11; ORE, 23 June, p. 10).

In calling to mind the human being's relationship with his body, with his peers and with himself, we have touched on dimensions that call every human being to go beyond himself. This is the reason why Pope Benedict XVI recently assured people that "the Church wants to make her own contribution to serving the human community by shedding more and more light on the relationship that unites each person to the Creator of all life and is the basis of the inalienable dignity of every human being, from conception to natural death" (Message to Cardinal Tauran, ORE, 15 June 2005, p. 5). This is her specific vocation at the service of humanity.

Thank you for your kind attention.