“Your institute proposes to promote human dignity on the basis of the fundamental truth about man, who is created in the image and likeness of God.”
With these remarks, Pope Francis addressed delegates from the Dignitatis Humanae Institute (DHI) during a private audience on Saturday.
Founded in 2008, the DHI – also known as the Human Dignity Institute – is a think tank dedicated to supporting efforts to promote respect for human dignity at the global level, particularly in politics.
Addressing those gathered in the Sala Clementina of the Papal Palace, Pope Francis said that the “throw away culture” produced by today’s society “threatens to become the dominant mentality.”
The victims of this mentality, he said, are the “unborn, the poorest people, sick elderly people, gravely disabled people.” These “weakest and most fragile human beings” are “ in danger of being ‘thrown out,’ expelled from a machine that must be efficient at all costs.”
In efforts to defend basic human rights, such as religious liberty and the right to life, “the Church’s social doctrine, with its integral vision of man, as a personal and social being, is our ‘compass’.”
Among those present at Saturday’s audience were representatives from various groups working to promote the dignity of human life in their respective sectors.
In an interview with ZENIT following the audience, Nirj Deva, president of the International Committee on Human Dignity, said the experience of meeting the Holy Father was unforgettable. Pope Francis, he said, has “eschewed the pomp and circumstance that surrounds this place to remind us that he represents a fisherman.”
Turning to the economic remarks in Pope Francis’ recent Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, Deva noted how the Pope is “focusing on something very important.”
With the predicted rise in poverty, the Pope is saying that “we can’t just be making money, forgetting the people who are at the bottom of that particular pyramid. We need to help them be uplifted.”
“He is a simple man,” he said, one who has brought scores of people “back into the Catholic fold by his simplicity and his love.”
Deva, who also serves as the Conservative MEP for the South East of England, and Vice-Chairman of the European Parliament’s Development Committee, said one of his fears is that, through selfishness, Europe is “trying to create a eugenic society… to eliminate anyone who is not healthy or [who] can’t contribute”.
“You even have children being euthanized!” he said. “How can it be a civilization? Is that what we mean by civilization, let alone human dignity?”
On the NET:
ZENIT’s translation of Pope Francis’ Address to the Dignitatis Humanae Institute
ZENIT feature on the Dignitatis Humanae Institute, 3/31/2011