Respect for human dignity is the deepest ethical foundation in our search for peace

Archbishop Celestino Migliore

Peace cannot be had without respect for the rights and dignity of the person, the Holy See affirmed, noting that man’s rights are based in human nature, and not determined merely by a decision-making body.

Archbishop Celestino Migliore, permanent observer of the Holy See to the United Nations, affirmed this during an address delivered Tuesday to the 62nd U.N. General Assembly, on the topic of a culture of peace.

The prelate noted that the link between peace and respect for human rights and dignity is “now accepted as self-evident, universal and inalienable.”

But, he affirmed, “The recognition of the existence of fundamental human rights necessarily presupposes a universal and transcendent truth about man that is not only prior to all human activity, but also determines it.”

Archbishop Migliore said that the golden rule of “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” applies to nations, as well as to individuals.

“Respect for human dignity is the deepest ethical foundation in our search for peace and in the construction of international relations that correspond to the requirements of our common humanity,” he said. “Forgetting or partially and selectively accepting this core principle is at the origin of conflicts, of environmental degradation and of social and economic injustices.

“Human rights are grounded in the objective requirements of nature bestowed on man. In this context, laws contrary to human dignity may never be passed and progress in every field cannot be measured by what is possible, but by its compatibility with human dignity.”

Archbishop Migliore highlighted the first right that must be respected as the base of all other rights: life, from conception till natural death, since “life is not at anyones disposal.”

He continued: “It is in this continuum of respect for life that the abolition of the death penalty should be put in context. It is also within this framework that even in the midst of war, all must respect international humanitarian law. When, despite every effort, war does break out, at least the essential principles of humanity must be safeguarded and norms of conduct must be established to limit the damage as much as possible and to alleviate the suffering of civilians and of all the victims of conflicts.

“In the same manner that the right to life cannot be disposed of at will, the right to religious freedom cannot be subject to human caprice.”

Archbishop Migliore said the United Nations is called to exercise leadership in the promotion of human rights. “In doing so,” he said, “it must not lose sight of the principle that these rights are held to be true, not because a decision-making body says so, but because they flow from the inalienable dignity of every human person.”