Addresses of Cardinal Martino and Luca Volonte on Dignitatis Humanae Institute's 5th Anniversary

«I am proud to say that this Institute has done remarkable work in short five years to establish itself as a leading international player in the global attempt to evangelise our culture.»

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The following addresses were given by Cardinal Renato Martino, honorary president of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI), and Luca Volontè, DHI’s chairman, at a private audience with Pope Francis in the Sala Clementina, Dec. 7th.

The Institute celebrated its first five years on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Dec. 8.


Your Holiness,

Tomorrow is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, the Fifth Anniversary of the foundation of the Dignitatis Humanae Institute.  The DHI was founded in 2008 in the European Parliament with the goal to protect and promote human dignity based on the anthropological truth that man is born in the image and likeness of God.

I am proud to say that this Institute has done remarkable work in short five years to establish itself as a leading international player in the global attempt to evangelise our culture.  Our Annual Conference on Human Dignity, which takes place here in Rome, is now host to a large number of politicians, NGOs, and journalists and other opinion formers.

They gather from all over the world with one objective: to return our society to the belief that man is made in the image and likeness of God, and that because of this, he has an infinite human dignity which demands to be respected.

To evangelise the very culture itself is the activity and ambition of this Institute.  We work with all people of goodwill.  We are firmly ecumenical in our approach, respectful and tolerant of those with other different faith; but we celebrate with joy our uncompromising inspiration by the holy Word of God, and Catholic Social Teaching.

Before I hand over to our Chairman, Luca Volontè, to say a few words on behalf of the Institute, I wanted to share these beautiful and memorable words of yours, Your Holiness, that you gave recently to Catholic Gynaecologists.  The Dignitatis Humanae Institute has taken them to heart.

Holy Father, you said: “In the fragile human being, each one of us is invited to recognize the face of the Lord, who in his human flesh experienced the indifference and loneliness that often condemns the poorest, both in developing countries and in affluent societies.”

You affirmed that: “each unborn child who is unjustly condemned to be aborted, bears the face of Jesus Christ, has the face of the Lord, who, even before he was born and then as soon as he was born, experienced the rejection of the world.”  And you said “that every elderly person, even if he or she is sick or at the end of his or her days, bears the face of Christ.  They cannot be discarded, as the «culture of waste» proposes!  They cannot be discarded!”

And you reminded them that being Catholic entails a great responsibility, by helping: “people to recognize the transcendent dimension in human life, the imprint of God’s work of creation, from the very first moment of conception on.”

Thank you Holy Father.  This luminous expression of the dignity of man is something that we hope will permeate everything the Dignitatis Humanae Institute does in the future.  It is a manifesto for our call to action.

Cardinal Renato Raffaele Martino

Honorary President, Dignitatis Humanae Institute.

Your Holiness,

What is the great moral question that characterizes the modern age?

The Dignitatis Humanae Institute believes it to be how humanity responds to the First Commandment: “I am the Lord your God – You shall have no other gods before me: you shall not make for yourself an idol.”

And this age is defined by our attempt to ignore the Commandment; or worse, to eliminate it.

The West, which prides itself on its secularity, has produced a proud succession of false idols in the modern era, and hastened to bow down to them.  And with every new false idol raised up, it is the dignity of man that is dragged down.

The false idol of individualistic consumerism, that says that people who live empty lives without joy can find meaning and fulfilment through shopping and material acquisition;

The false idol of human perfection, that has manipulated the medical profession, transforming health care into a doctrine of eugenics;

The false idol of social collectivism, that says people find their identity only as part of the social collective;

These, of course, are just a few of them.  The Dignitatis Humanae Institute rejects decisively these synthetic religions that offer sacrifice, and literally the human sacrifice of the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society, to such false gods.  And if these idolatries are synthetic religions; then the incense burnt is the indifference of moral relativism. 

Moral Relativism: which is, in the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, a tyranny based on the supremacy of the strong and the neglect of the weak and vulnerable.

Holy Father, because of that barbaric tyranny, and because we are a world that lives without Christ, some 50 million children are killed by abortion, and unknown thousands through euthanasia, around the world every year.  This is the sacrifice that the secular world offers up to the gods of its choice.

The neglect, rejection and loneliness of the most vulnerable in our society are our clear signs that we have got it wrong and we need to re-think our priorities.

Holy Father, The Dignitatis Humanae Institute thanks you from the profoundest depths of its heart, for the constant repetition you have given the world that we need to return to Christ.

As you said in your Palm Sunday homily: All too often…the Living God is replaced by fleeting human idols which offer the intoxication of a flash of freedom, but in the end bring new forms of slavery and death.»

This is the heart of the non-negotiable principles underlined recently in Evangelii gaudium.

The Dignitatis Humanae Institute therefore suggests with humility: there can only ever be an authentic recognition in society of the infinite dignity of man when there is an acknowledged infinity dignity due to God to build it on.  And in fact, as God is treated by society, so the corresponding degree of how man treats man either rises or falls.

As the President of our Board of Advisors, Cardinal Burke, said at this year’s Annual Conference on Human Dignity, kindly hosted at the Casina Pio IV here at the Vatican: “Without a careful articulation of the inviolable dignity of innocent human life, society’s only measure of the good of an individual human life is what the person possesses or produces.”

By “careful articulation”, Cardinal Burke was talking of the main instrument of our work: the Universal Declaration on Human Dignity – which stresses that we recognise that the source of our rights transcends any legal document or charter, because the source comes from God: from this, we conclude that the pre-eminent human right is that all humanity is recognized as being made in the likeness and image of God.

Holy Father, the Dignitatis Humanae Institute sees the promotion of the fact that Man is made in the image and likeness of God as a springboard to evangelisation.  We see that the beating heart of evangelisation is the transmission of the joy, the hope that is Jesus Christ in us.  This is what we are trying to spread in the political sphere and in the wider civil society.

The Gospel’s invitation of Our Blessed Lord, to whom we must all answer, is to love God and to love our neighbour.  This invitation is today the only yeast we have to really change the world.  It is always a positive proposal, the promise of true joy that stands ready to change man and humanity.

I would like to thank all our friends for being present: especially the network of politicians we work with, and the generosity of our benefactors that make our work possible.

Finally, we think to tomorrow, to the great Solemnity on which the Dignitatis Humanae Institu
te was founded, the Immaculate Conception.   As the Founding Patron of the Institute, Rocco Buttiglione, said at the beginning of this work: “We can always pray to the Madonna for her intercession: but we must always pray to her for her protection.”

Your Holiness, on behalf of everybody here present, Thank you most sincerely for receiving us on our Fifth Anniversary. 

We ask for your prayers going forward into the future.

Luca Volontè, Chairman, Dignitatis Humanae Institute

On ZENIT’s web page:

Pope Francis’ discourse to the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, 12/8/13

ZENIT Report on Papal Audience, 12/9/13

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