The Holy See
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Tuesday, 4 December 2001

Madam President,

I gladly join the speakers who have preceded me in expressing the gratitude of the Delegation of the Holy See for what the presidency of Romania has accomplished this year.

Among other things, I shall praise the presidency's positive achievements in the area of religious freedom.

Freedom of religion fosters an effective culture of peace

Indeed, it is of primary importance that we proclaim clearly that religious beliefs, freely chosen and expressed in personal and public life, are a treasure and an opportunity for each individual and for society as a whole in these times when religion is often exploited for political ends, or, what is worse, for killing in the name of God. This allows us to evaluate the importance and symbolic power of the fast which Pope John Paul II proposed for 14 December, as well as of the invitation to the representatives of the world's religions to meet in Assisi next 24 January.

More than ever, after 11 September, the international community needs to reflect on the way to encourage an effective culture of peace. Violence, unresolved conlicts, the fear of the other, the assertion of an identity that is often built on opposition to others, the rejection of dialogue, mean that today the claims of ethnic minorities, the destiny of refugees, the role of the law and the values of democracy are for certain countries values that have still to be accepted as necessary for civil and political life.

Eliminate the social and economic roots of frustration

Reliable cooperation is therefore indispensable to eliminate the social and economic factors that give rise to reciprocal frustration, threaten international security and hinder the proper functioning of international institutions. Although effective juridical instruments are in place, the political will to put them into practice is often lacking.

In this context, my Delegation looks favourably at the commitment of the OSCE to invigorate the economic and ecological dimensions of the organization.

Madam President, I would like once again to stress how much the Holy See appreciates the valuable patrimony of documents and institutions of the OSCE. Speaking about the reforms of structures and organization, a sort of leitmotif of its work this year, I wish to emphasize that these reforms, though certainly necessary, must not affect the Organization's ability to fulfil its mandate.

Efficient management is obviously necessary if the OSCE is to function properly, but it would also be well to avoid a bureaucratization that would reduce the flexibility of the meetings and activities of the Organization.

Safeguard women and children

No one will be surprised that my Delegation supports the various initiatives to invigorate the human dimension of the organization, particularly those initiatives in favour of children and women.
In situations of conflict, it is these categories who are the first to suffer the dramatic consequences of armed violence. Our organization must certainly protect them more effectively and associate them more closely with the daily building of reconciliation and peace.

Madam President, as I thank the Romanian authorities for the hospitality that they offered us for this meeting in Bucharest, I wish to assure Portugal, who is taking over the presidency, of the Holy See's collaboration in the coming months, and I wish all the peoples represented here a peaceful and prosperous future.

*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English 2002 n.3 p.9.