The Holy See
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Mr Minister,

Once again, through me, His Holiness Pope John Paul II wishes to send a friendly greeting to you, the President of this honourable Assembly, and to the Foreign Ministers of the American and Caribbean nations, to Mr CÚsar Gaviria, General Secretary of the Organization of American States, and to the representatives of the observer nations.

The full agenda submitted to the member States at each of the annual assemblies is in itself visible proof of the importance of the OAS as a multilateral instrument for encouraging throughout the continent harmony and brotherhood, the strengthening of democracy, respect for the individual, legislative harmonization and cultural cooperation. Among other things, the Holy See has followed with great interest the development of all the conventions and resolutions concerning disarmament, common security and the building of reciprocal confidence and, especially, the creation of a comprehensive juridical framework for the protection of human rights.

The various tasks being carried out, on which the 32nd General Assembly will report, include the Permanent Council's report on the human rights of emigrant workers and their families, and on the feasibility of the Draft of the Inter-American Convention against racism and all forms of discrimination and intolerance.

The current process of globalization, the discrepancies in development between the countries of the region, civil conflicts, natural disasters and the serious economic crises affecting certain American States cause the migration of increasingly large multitudes of peoples. The reaction to the phenomenon of the nations or regions that receive the waves of emigrants may easily be one of intolerance and of social discrimination of minorities, the abuse of the weaker sectors and of a disproportionate defence of the prosperity, employment and other social benefits acquired.

In this regard we should not lose sight of the fact that any evaluation of this problem must start with the notion of the universal common good that embraces the entire human family and goes beyond any nationalist selfishness. This notion is founded on the universality and indivisibility of the fundamental human rights that derive from the dignity of the human person and have also been appropriately recognized by the American Convention of Human Rights.

All the men and women of the region should be able to enjoy the legitimate right to emigrate, which includes the right to live a dignified life with their own family, to preserve and develop their own cultural patrimony including their religious heritage, and to be treated in all circumstances as befits their dignity as human beings. The limits of the ethical obligation to accept immigrants cannot be determined merely by the defence of one's own well-being.

The problems of migration and the protection of minorities must be considered in the global context of inter-American policy. Within this framework, the Holy See cannot cease to recall the need for an effective inter-continental solidarity among the governments and peoples of America so they help to supply generously the material means to solve the great problems affecting vast areas of the continent. A solidarity of this kind would necessarily entail greater sacrifices on the part of the state and the more advanced social groups, leaving aside short-term sectorial interests, to receive the brothers and sisters who arrive in search of better living conditions, and to make it easier for them to remain in their native region.

The undesirable consequences of massive population displacement could be lessened by an effort throughout the continent to create employment that is dignified, plentiful and stable in the poorest states and geographical areas. In this regard, financial aid with the fewest conditions possible, and the wide-scale opening of markets developed to foster the productivity of the poorest countries are an indispensable complement to legislation on the phenomenon of migration.

The Holy See feels honoured and pleased to take part in the Organizations' General Assembly once again and asks Almighty God to enlighten and to guide the continent's political leaders so that they may be more strongly committed to achieving the common good.

As well as greeting the American and Caribbean delegates and the peoples they represent on the Holy Father's behalf and in my own name, I also greet with special affection the people of Barbados who are hosting this 32nd Assembly, and their Prime Minister, H.E. Mr Owen Seymour Arthur, M.P.

You may rest assured, Mr Minister, of my deep esteem and high regard.

From the Vatican, 2 June 2002

Cardinal Angelo Sodano
Secretary of State


*L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.30 p.2.