The Holy See
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Friday 5 April 2002


Mr Chairman,

On numerous occasions in these days, Pope John Paul II has appealed for an end to the situation of violence in that land which was the birth place of Jesus Christ and which is sacred alike to Christian, Jewish and Muslim believers.

On Easter Sunday itself, speaking of the fact that the Holy Land had been plunged again - and on such Holy Days - into horror and despair, Pope John Paul exclaimed "it seems that war has been declared on peace! But nothing is resolved by war, it only brings suffering and death, nothing is resolved through reprisal and retaliation" (1).

It is legitimate that the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, within the remit of its mandate and competence, have the opportunity to address the human rights situation in the area. The community of nations, here represented, has the right to demand scrupulous respect for human rights and humanitarian law in any conflict situation.

At the same time, however, the Holy See underlines the need to give special priority to a return to negotiations and towards rapidly finding a lasting political solution. It is a responsibility that falls on all of us. It is something that cannot be put off. The Pope recalled that, in the face of what is happening in the Middle East, "no one can remain silent and inactive, no political or religious leader" (2).

We all know that the only future for the peoples of the Middle East is that they find the way to live side-by-side in mutual respect. We all know that one day - hopefully sooner rather than later - the parties will sit down together to negotiate the means to make this possible. Why wait until more lives are destroyed? Why let the hope of the future be poisoned today, by acts of terror and reprisal, which can do nothing else than increase the sense of frustration and hatred.

It is for this reason that the Holy See unequivocally condemns terrorism from whatever part it comes.

It is for this reason that the Holy See disapproves of the conditions of injustice and humiliation imposed on the Palestinian people, as well as reprisals and retaliation.

It is for this reason that the Holy See appeals for proportionality in the use of legitimate means of defence.

It is for this reason that the Holy See calls for respect for the United Nations Resolutions, on the part of all.

In these days the Holy See, through its diplomatic channels, has been in contact with the various parts involved in the conflict, appealing for peace and a return to negotiations. It has also recalled all parties to the special duty to respect and safeguard the Holy Places, which are of such significance for the three monotheistic religions and are part of the heritage of all humanity. The situation in Bethlehem is of special concern.

Mr Chairman,

This special sitting during the 58th Session of the Human Rights Commission should not be a moment to create new tension or a sense of recrimination. Human Rights are about human dignity. We are concerned about the rights of every human person to live in dignity, with their families and within their communities, in respect for the security of others. "Denunciation", Pope John Paul noted "must be followed by practical acts of solidarity that will help everyone to rediscover mutual respect and return to frank negotiation"(3).


(1) Message Urbi et Orbi, Easter Sunday 2002

(2) Ibid.

(3) Ibid.

*L’Osservatore Romano, 10.4.2002 p.2.

L'Osservatore Romano. Weekly Edition in English n.16 p.5.