Human Rights Seen as a Meeting Point for Church and Modernity

Book Presented on Magisterial Teaching on the Topic

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ROME, APRIL 15, 2002 ( Human rights have passed from being a point of confrontation to being a meeting point between the Church and contemporary culture, according to Cardinal François Xavier Nguyên Van Thuân.

The affirmation by the president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace was endorsed with the Vatican Press´ publication of Giorgio Filibeck´s book «Human Rights in the Teaching of the Church.» The pontifical council commissioned the book.

When presenting the book last week, Cardinal Van Thuân said that the topic of human rights, «for a long time the ground of clashes between the Church and modern culture, has become a meeting point for those who are committed to defend and promote human dignity, whether believers or nonbelievers.»

Also on hand were Cardinal Dionigi Tettamanzi, archbishop of Genoa, and two politicians: Gianni Letta the center-right undersecretary of the presidency of the Italian Council of Ministers, and Giuliano Amato, the center-left former Prime Minister and vice president of the European Convention.

All three agreed that the foundation of human rights is «man´s personal dignity,» which in turn has its roots in the very humanity of Christ.

This is precisely the Catholic Church´s greatest contribution to human rights, Letta said, «together with the affirmation of the character of the rights themselves, which represents the first guarantee of its universality.»

According to Filibeck´s book, this is the change of perspective imprinted by Popes John XXIII, Paul VI and John Paul II, in respect of the French Revolution, which artificially separated laicism and religiosity.

«The Gospel certainly contains a religious and theological message, but also a message that is typically human and anthropological,» said Cardinal Tettamanzi. And the unity of the two aspects «is based on Christ, true God and true man,» he added.

Socialist Amato agreed with this argument. «There is no doubt that the Kantian imperative reflects ´do not do unto others what you would not like done unto you,´» he said. «However, one cannot doubt that religion is more forceful in imprinting this message on consciences.»

Therefore, in his capacity as vice president of the European Convention, Amato promised to do everything possible so that the religious legacy of the continent — especially its Christian legacy — will find a proper place in the Union´s future Constitution.

This position was openly requested by Letta, who wondered «how the new Europe and the new world order can be constructed, so urgent after Sept. 11 and the events taking place these days in the Middle East, without this cultural treasure?»

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