CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, AUG. 26, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address which he gave before leading pilgrims in praying the Angelus at midday.
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Dear Brothers and Sisters!
1. “I am coming to gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and shall see my glory” (Isaiah 66:18). These words of the prophet Isaiah, which resound today in the liturgy, remind me of the important international meeting that will be held in Durban, South Africa, from next Friday, Aug. 31, to Sept. 7. It is the United Nations World Conference Against Racial Discrimination. In that venue the Church will also vigorously raise her voice to safeguard the fundamental rights of man, rooted in his dignity of being created in the image and likeness of God.
In order to present to the faithful and to the international community the Holy See´s thought on this matter, the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace has prepared a new edition, with a detailed updated introduction, to the document published at my request in 1988, entitled “The Church in Face of Racism: For a More Fraternal Society.”
2. In the last decades, characterized by the development of globalization and marked by the worrying resurgence of aggressive nationalism, ethnic violence and widespread phenomena of racial discrimination, human dignity has often been seriously threatened. Every upright conscience cannot but decisively condemn any racism no matter in what heart or place it is found. Unfortunately, it emerges in ever new and unexpected ways, offending and degrading the human family. Racism is a sin that constitutes a serious offense against God.
Vatican Council II reminds us that “we cannot invoke God the Father of all, if we refuse to behave like brothers toward some of the men who are created in the image of God. … Consequently, the Church condemns, as contrary to the will of Christ, any form of discrimination among men, or persecution perpetrated for reasons of race or color, social condition or religion” (“Nostra Aetate,” 5).
3. Racism must be opposed by the culture of reciprocal acceptance, recognizing in every man and woman a brother or sister with whom we walk in solidarity and peace. Therefore, there must be a vast work of education in the values that highlight the dignity of the person and safeguard his fundamental rights. The Church intends to continue with her efforts in this area, and requests all believers to make their own responsible contribution of conversion of heart, sensitization and formation. In order to achieve this, in the first place, prayer is necessary.
In particular, we invoke Most Holy Mary, so that the culture of dialogue and acceptance will grow everywhere together with respect for every human being. We entrust to her the forthcoming Conference of Durban, from which we hope that the common will to construct a world of greater freedom and solidarity will be reinforced.
[Translation by ZENIT]