John Paul II Receives Doctorate "Honoris Causa" In Jurisprudence

La Sapienza University Honors Pope’s Defense of Human Rights

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VATICAN CITY, MAY 18, 2003 ( John Paul II receives doctorate «Honoris Causa» in Jurisprudence from Rome’s La Sapienza University, for his defense of human rights.

When receiving the honor in the Vatican on May 17, the Pope explained that he believes that part of his ministry is «to give ample space to the affirmation of human rights, because of the close relations they have with two fundamental points of Christian morality: the dignity of the person and peace.»

«It is God, in fact, who by creating man in his image and calling him to be his adoptive son, has conferred an incomparable dignity on him, and it is God who created men so that they would live in harmony and peace, providing for a just distribution of the means necessary to live and to develop,» he added.

There were numerous Italian authorities present during the ceremony to confer the honor, held in the Vatican General Audience Hall. Among them was Silvio Berlusconi, president of the Council of Ministers, as well as the University’s staff of professors, the largest in Europe.

In his address, the Pope mentioned the fundamental human rights for which he has struggled «with all his energies» in the nearly 25 years of his pontificate.

In the first place, he mentioned the right to life, as «human life is sacred and inviolable from conception until its natural death,» he said.

«In particular, I have insisted that the human embryo is a human individual and, as such, is entitled to the inviolable rights of the human being. Therefore, the juridical norm is called upon to define the juridical status of the embryo as the subject of right that cannot be disregarded either by the moral or the juridical order,» he stressed.

In the second place, he mentioned «religious freedom,» recognized by the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Man and by other fundamental documents of International Law.

According to the Pope, «religious freedom» is not «just one more human right,» as it is the one that gives meaning to the others, given that «the dignity of the human person has its first source in the essential relation with God.»

This is the reason it is «a test for the observance of the other fundamental rights,» he said.

Other human rights that have attracted the Holy Father’s commitment, as he himself explained, are:

–«The right not to be discriminated against for reasons of race, language, religion, or sex;»

–«The right to private property, which is valid and necessary, but that must never be separated from the fundamental principle of the universal destiny of goods;»

–«The right to freedom of association, of expression and information, always in respect of truth and the dignity of persons;»

–«The right — which today is also an important duty — to participate in political life, destined to promote the common good organically and institutionally;»

–«The right to economic initiative;»

–The right to a home for every person and his family, which is intimately connected with the right to constitute a family and to have a job that is adequately remunerated;»

–«The right to education and learning, as illiteracy is a great poverty and it is often synonymous with marginalization;»

–«The rights of minorities to exist and to preserve and develop their own culture;»

–«The right to work and the rights of workers: the topic to which I dedicated the encyclical ‘Laborem exercens;'»

Lastly, the Holy Father said he has worked hard for the «rights of the family in the face of intolerable usurpations by the society and state, knowing very well that the family is the privileged place for the humanization of the person and of society, and that the future of the world and of the Church passes through it.

John Paul II, who has received eleven doctorates «honoris causa» from different Universities around the world, received La Sapienza’s recognition one day before his 83rd birthday.

In the «Laudatio,» Pietro Rescigno, professor of civil law at the 700-year old University of La Sapienza, emphasized the «assiduous and profound» contribution John Paul II has made in the area of human rights, describing him as a «lawmaker gifted with expertise, doctrine, and wisdom.»

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